Specificity in child rearing

I have discovered I need to be more specific when dealing with the kids. Margo came to me this morning and said, “Mommy, I don’t have any shorts.”

Imagine my surprise, because I spent ALL day Monday catching up on laundry. I knew for sure she couldn’t have worn all gazillion pairs of shorts she had in 3 days. She changes a lot, but not that much.

I checked the clean laundry in her basket.

Only 2 pairs.

I checked in all of her dresser drawers.

Not there.

I checked behind her dresser.

Not there.

I checked in Isaac, Rebecca and my dressers, because my husband cannot tell the difference between any of our behinds when he folds laundry. (I love a man who considers me the same size as my kids)

Not there.

Isaac goes under Rebecca’s bed and finds a pair.

I found a pair behind the toilet in their bathroom.

But I’m still perplexed. She has a crapload more. Where are they? Are there borrower like creatures who only come and steal size 4, girl shorts? As a last resort, I check the laundry bin at the end of the chute. Positive I would only find the clothes I had put down there myself, because if there’s anything the kids hate worse than putting clean clothes in drawers, it’s putting dirty clothes down the laundry chute.

I start sorting. 1 pair of shorts. 2 pair of shorts. 3, 4, 5.

All of them.  All clean. Down the chute, all underneath wet, smelly dish clothes.

When I asked Margo why her clean shorts were down the chute, she replied. “You told me to put them away.”

Well played my fiendish 3-year old. Well played.

From now on, all my directives will come with illustrations, written instructions, and a danger sign on any place clothes should not go. But now, it’s time to rewash all the clothes I washed 2 days ago.

And to yell at Rebecca for painting her nails when I asked her to clean her room.

And to send the younger 2 outside before they undo all of the housework I did today.

And give myself a time out, before I become scary mommy.

 

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Writing, Running, and Summer with the Kids

Everyone take a collective sigh of relief. It is summer. Well, okay, a sigh of relief isn’t always what I feel when I think of summer. After all it is all me, all day, with 3 kids. And I have to admit I got into a pretty sweet routine over the past year with my 3 free hours every morning.

Of course for the past 3 weeks haven’t felt particularly free or mine, but that is how life rolls a lot of the time.

This week I had a bit of an existential crisis. My husband mistakenly called me up one day, and I burst into tears because when was I going to write, when was I going to run, when was I going to be able to feel like my own person this summer. I rediscovered myself this year and summer, although welcomed, feels sometimes like I’m taking a huge step back.

Have you every tried to write, let a lone do anything with 3 kids in the house? It’s sorta like threading a needle in a bouncy house. I’m sure it can be done, but it’s going to be a hellish ride. Or running. I can either get up early to write, or early to run. Technically I can run when the kids are up, but I’m stuck on the hamster wheel going nowhere, or trying to push Margo in a jogging stroller, while praying the older 2 don’t run race into oncoming traffic.

So I sat in the cone of shame for a while this week. First world problems I know, but it is so easy to slip back into a mom roll and forget about my dreams and goals. And I’m 40K into a new book and I’d hate to see the momentum lost and I chuck the pages in the drawer with all those others I’ve started and never finished.

This morning, I woke up late. I planned to get in a run and I failed on day 1. But I had 20 minutes until my husband needed to leave, so I threw on my shoes and I bolted out the door. This isn’t the summer I vacation in shame. So I ran.

And on my run I processed all the thoughts and feelings swirling around this crazy head of mine, and I relaxed. This summer isn’t going to be perfect, but I am going to write. I am going to run, and I am not going to just mark time until August.

Then, as I was wrapping up my run another runner was headed my way and as my thoughts and the world collided, she stuck out her hand and gave me a high-five. She couldn’t have known all the crazy going on in me, but at that moment I felt the universe saying.

Don’t worry, you’ve got this.

You’re a writer and a runner. Just enjoy summer and the rest will fall in to place.

I wished all of life tied up that nicely. But I guess how would we ever evolve? I have to thank that runner this morning. It changed my tone for the summer.

All I needed was a plan. A plan and some grace for the days I don’t get my word count, or I decide to sleep in instead of run. Space for the days the kids and I need to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other. What I didn’t need is that old negative tape telling me what I wouldn’t do, what I need was the high-five from the runner saying,

You got this.

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Moving on up

And no, I’m not singing the theme song to the Jeffersons.

Okay, so I am singing the song, but only because I can’t get it out of my head now that I wrote that line.

Moving Up is a huge deal in our Montessori school. It celebrates the children moving on from one plane of development to another. It is more than moving from one grade to another. It is acknowledgement of how much a child changes in 3 years. For 3 years they have worked with the same teacher and assistant. Been with the same core group of students, and have grown together. It is a celebration not of the end of something, but the launch of young lives into something new.

We aren’t remembering who they were, we are celebrating who they continue to grow into.

How awesome is that?

Every child who was moving on to the next level, spoke a line or two about what memory they would carry forward. And what brought me to tears every time, was how loved the kids felt. Ruffing isn’t just a school, it is a community focused on the inner life of the child, and all of them from 3 years old to 14 understands that.

It was an especially bittersweet year for us. Not only did Isaac and Rebecca move up, but their children’s house teacher retired after 27 years. We have known this woman for 6 years and have been privileged to be a part of her classroom with all of our kids. The first 5 years of life are the most important years, and this woman has been an integral part of their lives. Even at 9, Rebecca still remembers how cared for she felt in Children’s house.

This teacher guided our kids to confidence,  joy in learning, and independence.

She guided us as parents, and influenced us more than she will ever know.

So yeah, I posted a lot of pictures on Facebook. It is a monumental moment in both Isaac and Rebecca’s life. They have worked hard for 3 years, and are ready to tackle new challenges. They changed so much in the past 3 years, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the joy they feel every time they step out of the van and into the welcoming arms of the Montessori community.

 

 

 

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Dream Big

I read research once that surveyed kids at different ages, and asked them who thought they were good at art. The younger the age, the more hands were raised. Until by the teen years, no one raised their hand.

The older we get, the less qualified we feel.

Kids are awesome in their confidence. They believe they can do anything, be anything, sing anything, and dream anything. There is no task too big for them to accomplish.

President of the United States? Why not! Rock Star? On my Way! Ballerina? Let me get my pointe shoes.

I spent a good portion of my childhood believing I could tap dance, and it was a tough day when I learned I couldn’t. And I kinda jumped on that train and rode it all the way to the station, because after my belief I could do anything, was a long period of time when I believed I wasn’t qualified to do anything.

Our culture supports this idea. We hire experts for everything. Our kids can’t just play ball, they have to be coached. No one can fool around on a piano, they need lessons and techniques. To be a chef, you need to go to culinary school. To be a writer, you need an MFA. To be a runner, you need fartleks, tempo runs, a schedule, a race plan.

You can’t just go out and run anymore.

The past year has been a series of firsts for me. I’ve been tackling a list of things I believed I couldn’t do.

I could never run a marathon

I could never finish my book.

I could never sew my own skirt

I could never start a second book.

I could never make challah bread ( I know, random, but true)

I could never publish a book

I could never put together something that came with instructions.

My nevers list, is long. Because I stopped believing I could do much of anything a long time ago, because I wasn’t qualified. I didn’t have the experience, knowledge, or degree.

I focused on the results, and not the process. I lacked the confidence to even try.

My faithful readers, you know I finished a book and submitted it to a contest. I ran a marathon and finished it. And my newest project. I made a skirt without giving up. I started my second book, and when I get my first book back, I plan to spend the next year trying to get it published.

I even sewed my own skirt, without passing it off to my mom, husband or Rebecca to finish.

Somewhere during my journey through adulthood, I discovered that inner child that dreamed big. The voice that said, “What if.” And when the voice that said, “Probably not.” got too loud, I told her to stuff it.

The fact is, we don’t have to be experts to follow a dream. We don’t need degrees, we don’t need more workshops, advice, books, magazines or people to show us we’re ready for the next big step.

All you need to follow a dream is determination, the confidence of a child, and the belief that failure isn’t the end, but the beginning.

When I finished my race and my book, I spent a couple weeks wondering what I would do next. As if my only goal were to be a one hit wonder, and then I would go back to my quiet life of believing there are a lot of things out there I can’t do.

I am not a writer, I just write for fun.

I am not a runner, I just do it for exercise.

I am just a mom and I’m here to support other people’s dreams.

That one hurt a little when I said it out loud. Because even though I haven’t made a dime writing, and my blog numbers are abysmal, and just because I have never won a race, nor will I ever, it doesn’t mean I am just a person on the sideline of life.

I am a writer, because I write.

I am a runner, because I lace up my shoes every damn day I can.

I am a mom and a wife but I hope I show my family they aren’t responsible for making me happy or fulfilled.

I want to teach my kids, never to stop raising their hands for their dreams. I want them to dream big. Fail some. But never stop believing they can be whatever they say they are.

I want to teach them our results driven culture can kill a dream faster than our own failure can. The only thing we have to fight against a life of mediocrity, is to keep dreaming. Keep trying. Keep living.

What is your list of nevers?

 

 

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Why don’t boys love reading?

I was at the library yesterday picking up a book. Margo ran to the children’s area, and since I was there, I looked for books to bring home to Isaac. He is a newer reader and I want to keep his enthusiasm for reading high. Because when a child loves to read, worlds open up for them.

Where are the books for boys?

Not that I believe there are books for boys and books for girls, but book after book had a girl protagonist. At this age, kids want to read about someone like themselves, or someone they can relate to. And if book after book is about a girl, her friends, or animals, I start to understand why books aren’t as interesting to boys.

Boys still lag behind girls in reading for fun. Although it has increased in the past several years, only 47% of boys read for fun compared to 56% for girls. (Scholastic Report on Reading) The NEA discovered a reading gap wide enough between the years 1980-2004, that the authors concluded, girls read and boys don’t. (Boys don’t read, except when they do, Huffington Post, by Charles London.) And girls test better than boys in all 50 states, and boys are more likely to be placed in remedial programs. (Boys don’t read, except when they do, Huffington Post)

And more alarming than any of these statistics, illiteracy is linked to jail time. 93% of the adult prison population is male.

So what are we going to do about it?

1) Show them real men read. Make sure your kids see the men in their lives reading. Don’t read when the kids are tucked in bed at night. Instead of turning to your phone, pick up a book and lead by example.

2) Any reading is good. I know Captain Underpants lacks moral lessons. And the whole superhero canon seems tired. It’s more important that they enjoy reading. The more a child enjoys reading, the more they read. So put aside judgments and let them pick up that comic book. It is reading.

3) Explore the library or bookstore. Let them pick out what they want to read. Take them somewhere with books and let them go wild. London states in his article in the Huffington Post, a lot of times society doesn’t accept what boys are reading. They do read, we just don’t consider it “Real reading.” Let them choose what to read, and let them read. (of course it stands to reason that the Walking Dead comes when they are old enough to handle it.)

4) Read Together. Pick up a book and make reading a daily habit together. We tend to think reading to kids is only something a pre-reader needs. But research shows, reading aloud is beneficial to all age groups. A child’s listening level is higher than their reading level and the two don’t collide until around ages 13-14. Reading aloud helps them keep improving on their skills and building vocabulary.

5) Books should be everywhere. I know technology is convenient and my son would rather play Skylanders than read a book. Get them in the habit of reading when they have a few spare minutes waiting at the doctors, in the car, or any other time they might whine to see your phone or play video games. And the added benefit, books don’t crash in the middle of the game.

6) Keep reading fun. Don’t nag, don’t make it feel like a job, and NEVER use it as punishment. In our house the kids can stay up a little extra if they read.

7) Time to read. If we spent half the time encouraging our boys to read as we do being active, I think we’d have a lot more readers. Don’t overshedule with activities. Swimming, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey will always be there. But reading needs to start early. It isn’t the schools job to teach your boys to like reading. It’s yours.

Reading is a fundamental life skill and parents have dropped the ball on this one, especially when it comes to boys. With summer coming up, now is the perfect time to initiate positive changes in your child’s lives.

What books do you suggest for boys?

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Summer Life

I was at my parents this weekend spending some much needed time with them, and some fresh country air. Of course to my kids, that fresh country air smelled a lot like chicken manure. A smell their noses never acclimate to. They would prefer to breath the heavy smoggy air of the city to chicken poop.

We all have our preferences.

I discovered a while ago that country life wasn’t for me, but I struggle to fit in completely in the city. I just grew up a different way. Where life wasn’t scheduled down to the minute, after school hours were for play, and summers were spent outside exploring the natural world.

This weekend my kids got a taste of that life. We took bike rides together, explored my dad’s gardens, and played in the creek. The same way I spent my time when I was a kid, and one of the regrets I have about raising my kids in the city. The creek doesn’t require toys and you are supposed to get soaked and muddy. It doesn’t require a schedule, and time disappears. In fact, as I sat down with the kids,  I closed my eyes and I couldn’t tell the present from the past.

The creek was my best friend when I was a kid. In between the rocky beds of the water, I pretended I was Karana from the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Making a home for myself after having been abandoned. Or I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, playing along Plum Creek while my dad worked in the fields. If I didn’t want to play, I found a large rock and read, letting the bubbling water relax me. If I was adventurous I searched under rocks for salamanders, crawdads, minnows, water striders, or frogs.

During the summer of ’89, as the creek dried up I tried to save all the water life I could in buckets my dad let me borrow. Of course I killed them faster than mother nature would have.

As I played with the kids this weekend, I remembered how much I loved the rural life back then. Riding my bike on the road, never worrying about cars. Playing for hours in the creek and woods and not really caring that I was missing a world of TV. It didn’t matter much that my friends were too far to call up for a playdate. I played by myself, with my sisters, or the neighbor boy up the hill.

The exploration of my childhood led to imagination. And not only imagination, an appreciation of the world around me. A world I saw, touched, and interacted with on my own without adult intervention. A child’s mind left free to wander in whatever direction it chooses creates an inventive and creative adult. My parents didn’t entertain me, they opened the door and said, “Make your own fun.”

My kids don’t have the  freedoms I had as a child. There are no babbling brooks to sing to them, or trees to beckon with their long arms to sit and read a book. Their friends are close by, and there are so many ways to spend a summer, sometimes we all get lulled by the siren call of distraction.

We may not live in the country, but my kids can explore their world all the same. I can do exactly what my parents did for me. Open the door this summer, and say make your own fun.

Just think what will happen.

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The Marathon Recap

I ran 26.2 miles. Holy Crap! I actually did it.

Aren’t you glad, you won’t have to hear me complain about running anymore.

I have to admit, about 2 weeks before the race I was freaking out. I knew I could run 18 miles, but who knew what would happen when I stepped over that invisible line into the unknown. Another 8 miles, when you run a marathon, isn’t just 8 miles. You learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of.

And I learned, I can do hard things when no one is making me.

The first 13.1, I ran for the times I couldn’t run. I wore the race day shirt from 2012, when I couldn’t run the Cleveland Half Marathon because I got strep. I enjoyed those 13.1 miles. And I told strep to suck it.

I crossed the river for something other than beer.

I saw parts of Cleveland I never see, and it made me love this city even more than I already do.

 

I even caught sight of the brewery that launched me into a lifelong love of craft beer.

The first half, I loved my mocha energy gels. I sucked them down happily.

The pictures the photographer caught of me those first 13.1 miles have me smiling like it’s prom. Those aren’t the endorphins shining through, that is all Chris Hardwick making me laugh like I love nothing better than punishing my body for 6 hours.

And the support. My awesome sisters greeted me throughout the race course with signs, hugs, high-fives and cheers. They caught me at my finer moments,

And not so fine moments.

Another friend came out with her baby and greeted me at the miles that hurt the most. I’m looking at you miles 14, 16 and 25. And I can’t ever thank her enough for knowing exactly when I would need to see a friendly face.

I passed my sister heading back into the city and we hugged. Really I was trying to hitch a ride back to the city. She’s a lot faster and she could totes carry me the rest of the way. I’m sure no one would have noticed.

Mile 16 I discovered how much I despise mocha gel shots. Instead of happily pushing the goo into my mouth, I swallowed it like I was forced to take a spoonful of medicine, thinking- Okay. I can’t actually print what I was thinking, because this is a family site. My only marathon advice for a newbie. Don’t take only one flavor of gel for 26 miles. You will hate it before the end of the race. (And find creative places to store the crapload of packets you need. BUT NEVER IN YOUR running belt. Made that mistake. Not sure I will ever get that goo off of my neoprene.)

At mile 18.69, my parents, my kids and my husband were there with a water bottle, a bag of pretzels and energy gels and a whole lotta hugs to get me through to the end. My dad said, “Now you’ll get your second wind.” As I ran off to chase mile 19.

And you know what. He was right.

Mile 20-24 I am sure stuff happened, but I was in zombie shuffle stage. Instead of running by my watch I set little goals like, run to that white thing sticking out of the ground. Oh, hey, that’s a pole. What are those poles called? Yep, I should be on Jeopardy at mile 20. Another time, I told myself I would run to those two women jumping up and down.

Those women were my sisters. I also lose site at mile 22. They walked with me and we talked. At least I think we did. I’m going to guess we did.

I saw a couple of kids playing on the lawn and I wanted to sink down on that grass with them and sleep. But I kept going.

I walked when I needed to, picked up the pace when I could. Just after mile 25, a guy I had been running with for most of the race turned to me and said. “I’m never running another marathon.”

“I hear ya.” I replied. And then I thought about taking a nap right there on route 2.

Then he told me he ran his first mile in October and signed up for the full. And I was glad I wasn’t as crazy as him. He looked at the hill in front of us and said, “I can’t run another hill.” And I almost agreed with him, but I looked at that hill in front of me, and all the miles behind me and I said, “I think I’m gonna run this one.”

And I did.

I came in only 4 minutes over my time goal. I only slowed 50 seconds over the race, and I accomplished my biggest goal of running my own race and having fun. Well as much fun as a person can have when they run for 5 hours and 49 minutes. I am not a serial marathoner. This may be is my one and only. You will never see my Facebook status update say, “Boston Qualifier.”

I run because I can. And for so long I couldn’t. I said the first half of the race was for the one I didn’t finish. The last half of the race was for the night after they took out my thyroid. I sat in that hospital bed feeling the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. And I swore after the surgery, radiation, and tests were over, I would never be that sick again. I wouldn’t ever hurt as bad as I did right then. That was the lowest point in my life, and at age 28 I was grateful I had another 50 plus years to make it better.

The last 13.1 proved that I can feel worse than I did that night. And even though I felt worse, I have never been happier. The hard things don’t have to break us. They give us perspective.

I discovered during that 26.2 mile run how beautiful life is. Even when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, the sun still shone down, Cleveland beckoned me from the distance, and I knew I had friends and family waiting for me at the end of those miles. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.

I felt alive and grateful to be alive and healthy enough to try and kill myself with running.

I can’t really tell you about my splits, how I felt each mile of the race, because I stopped thinking around mile 14. When you are doing the impossible, you don’t have time to compare yourself to the past, you can only live in the moment. And that’s what I did.

I lived in the moment.

When I came down that last hill into the finishing chute, I saw my husband waving his arms wildly, and my mom and Isaac jogged down alongside me. Tears, if I could produce water at that point, would have streamed down my face.

I did it. I ran 26.2. I went from believing I couldn’t do it, to doing it.

I choose the hard path this time, the hard path didn’t choose me.

This time when I met the wall, I climbed over that bitch and jumped down to the other side.

A marathon can be about the race. It can be all about the training, the mileage, the pace, and the contest. Or it can be about a person discovering who they are. Digging deep down in the broken places and believing she can change. A person who dreams big, accomplishes what she needs to, instead of what people say she needs.

This marathon wasn’t about proving how fast I can be, it was proof that no matter how hard life gets, I’m going to have joy. It’s a process that started when I got cancer, and finally on May 18, 2014, I finally understand.

What an incredible gift. And now I wonder, how can I teach my kids this, without having them run a marathon.

Because today.

I freaking hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Running advice from my pit crew

Recently Isaac and I were talking about my upcoming Marathon. The race, my pivotal lifetime goal. And he said,

“You better start cramming.”

That’s right, because I haven’t been running for the past FOREVER!

But my race is a short 2 days away and my kids and my niece and nephew are always a fount of advice when I need it. Read my original post here, where the kids gave me advice about my upcoming half marathon. The half marathon I didn’t end up running because the little vectors gave me strep.

Running Advice out of the mouth of Babes

1. Don’t be scared of all the people running after you. They aren’t really chasing you. But look behind you, because they might be.

2. Why would you run? Walking is just fine.

3. Don’t get hurt, like don’t break your head open. They’ve seen the bruises on my legs from everyday walking.

4. Don’t get trampled.

5. Wear something nice. This one is from my niece who loves to dress like Fancy Nancy. My clothes are chosen for their anti-chafing properties and not how I look. Which is why you never see this lovely mug on any race posters.

6. Make sure you wear tennis shoes. I don’t know, there are a lot of people who swear by going barefoot. In Cleveland? I don’t think so.

7. Drink lots of water. This coming from the kids who when they go for a run spend 20 minutes filling up a water bottle and then quit before the end of the drive.

8. Wear sunscreen. Technically this is good advice, but have you ever tried to wear sunscreen and then run for 5 hours? Doesn’t work so well.

9. Run faster than the other people. Yep. Gonna be a whole lotta people running faster than me.

10. Win. Ha! I love their optimism.

11. You should bike instead. Another truism from Rebecca. Running is a pain. Biking is fun. At mile 25, I might change my tune.

12. Trip the zombies. Since I often trip myself when running, I’ll stay away from this one.

13. Don’t be last. Hey, someone’s gotta let everyone know the race is over.

14. Don’t smell so bad. Can’t help this one. I’m going to smell. Really, really, really bad. But I won’t care, because I’ll be the delirious one on the ground.

What race day advice have you received from your kids?

 

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Love in Action

If you haven’t read the Momastery, you should. In particular, you need to read her post today titled, Angels and Warriors.

She is hosting a love flash mob to raise 100K for 4 women who are battling cancer and 1 little girl who lost her mom to cancer. No one can donate more than 25 dollars and already today they’ve raised 70K.

70K, that’s a lot of love from complete strangers to complete strangers.

Doesn’t that make your mouth drop in wonder?

Sometimes we deride social media and equate it to fluff. Life pared down to 140 characters, or lived only in pictures. When we keep ourselves from the distractions of dancing kittens, social media is used for incredible good. And more and more I’m seeing women harness the power of the internet to spread love.

That is incredible.

Consider donating to this love mob and then go to the Love Flash Mob: Angels and Warriors link and share on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, email or however you reach your people. Let’s help this blogger reach her goal.

You know my own journey with cancer and how it has changed my life. Help change someone else’s and show them the power of love.

 

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Reclaiming my weekends

People ask when I’m signing up for my next marathon.

The answer to that, drum roll please . . . .

Never.

I know I could run another one. The last seven months have taught me I’m a tougher runner than I believed. If I kept training I could get faster and even stronger. But the training kills weekends.

And I want my weekends back.

Everything for the past seven months revolved around running. Getting training runs in and making sure I get my mid-week runs in is hard enough. Doing this while raising 3 kids and writing a book, killed my free time. Marathon training isn’t as simple as putting aside the time for the runs, it also involves recovery time. Most Saturdays I am a lump of goo after the high mileage runs. Trying to make coherent conversation after running for 3 1/2 hours is difficult and amounts to me talking about the food I want to eat or how bad my hip hurts.

My husband must really really love me to put up with my one track mind for so long.

This weekend I didn’t run. I was tired and still getting over a bad virus that left my lungs tight and my head pounding. So I slept in and reminded myself I’ve been training for 7 months. One weekend off won’t change that. It was a good reminder for me of how I can’t let my goals over take my life. It’s good to have things we strive for and work towards. And for a period of time it’s okay to focus on one thing.

But it can’t be our whole life. Because then we miss moments like this.

Or spending time exploring the city I made my home.

Or remembering I have hobbies other than running.

Training for this race reminds me life is lived on a lot of levels, when we focus on one to the exclusion of others we come untethered and off balance. Goals are good, busyness is okay if it’s short term and not a way of life. At some point, we have to let go and remember the goal isn’t all we are.

We are more complicated than that.

 

 

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Posted in Creating Space, Running | Tagged , , , , , ,

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