Mothers Day 2011

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wordpress has been a stinker and the last 2 posts didn’t work. I will give it another try though because the peanut gallery has been throwing things at the blank, dark stage here…

let’s see. what’s going on with us?

1. The Half-marathon training is finally over! For those of you not on Facebook to get the 1500 updates on that day, it was May 1st. I finished in my goal, of 2.5 hours. I tweaked my hip somehow and ran the last 2 miles, crying silent but constant tears from the pain but I DID IT. Pictures to come!

2. I have thrashed our yard. I’ve been busy opening it up, and taking out fences and hedges and posts and planters and really simplifying. Like de-cluttering your house or losing weight, simplifying takes an awful lot of work at first. But I like the direction it’s headed in. Pictures to come!

3. Caleb took his 5th grade test today, to meet State requirements. I didn’t do any test prep with him, or go over the years lessons at all, because I wanted to see exactly where he was and not skew the results at all, even accidentally. So all he got this morning was a reminder to take his time, and a hearty breakfast. Basically I threw him in the deep end, to see if he could swim. And when his test results came back 2 hours later? I’ve been grinning all day over my little Michael Phelps.

4. Speaking of school, I am deciding what to do for next year. With Caleb starting Middle School, Sam finishing it, and Josiah having only 2 years left in High School I am re-evaluating EVERYTHING. I want to make sure we are on a good course and finish strong! God hasn’t released His calling on us to homeschool these boys, so I am studying curriculums and praying for clear guidance. It recently hit me the specific Domino affect my homeschool choices will avail : That, if they don’t do well academically–then they won’t get good jobs or get into college–meaning then they cannot afford to ever move out–much less, get married–which means I will still be cleaning up after male offspring well into my 50s, and worse yet, I will not get passels of grandchildren. So we are cracking books HARD, next year! haha!

5. Our cat, Zuzu, currently has “songbird fever” which is a malaise of unknown origin. The vet suspects she ate a bad bird, or mouse or etc.  $$ we need for curriculum is spent on a silly animal and yet I don’t care–I absolutely love this cat. Whatever price they asked for the antibiotics she needed, I would’ve scraped up somewhere.

6. I want to change this blog format and design, because it’s so boring. But if I can hardly get time to POST, it’s not going to happen anytime soon!

7. Iphones are like babies. Everyone raves about them, but until you get one yourself, you can’t understand just how amazing and life-changing they really are. An Iphone was my early Mothers Day gift from John, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it this last week. However, I am all thumbs when it comes to texting-terrible, really really terrible and slow. Can an old dog really learn new tricks? I am afraid my pretty french nails may have to go, in order to type, and that’s going to be a hard sacrifice to make–I do so like my girly nails.

8. Yesterday I cared for a good friends children, and we had so much fun…a tea party, and watercolor painting, and playing together and I was struck by how I just adore these four kids. Partly because I’ve known them 5 years and watched them grow up but mainly because I so love my friend, that I cannot help but love her children. Then, that evening, we went to another friends home and listened to her son give a piano recital. As I watched her boy, so newly tall and deep-voiced, play so beautifully, I was almost in tears. Partly because he did so well, but mostly because I was so happy for her, knowing how she must be feeling such amazed pride (and totally justified!) pride at the way her only child was growing into such a fine young man. And it struck me how, because I love and treasure these women, therefore I can’t help but love and treasure their kids…and how it ought to be that way! For, if we love God, we cannot help but to love His kids. and yet so often, it isn’t true and some Christians can be so harsh, so self-righteous. It breaks my heart to see “believers” be some of the coldest, most judgmental people on earth. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when He said to Peter three times “do you love Me? Then, feed my sheep.” and elsewhere, when John said “and they will know we are Christians by our LOVE.”

9. We are doing respite foster care for the rest of May, for a toddler girl whom we adore. My adoring her doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten how time-consuming a preschooler is! Since she comes on Friday morning,  I am spending the rest of this week racing around doing all the tasks on my To Do list that require more than 30 minutes of undivided attention. And, if there aren’t any blog posts until June, you’ll know why, right?

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my pineapple tidbits

One of the bonuses about living in a town full of environmentally conscious hippies? Is that, in their quest to save the earth, they donate everything to secondhand stores. The fact that the local populace is also known for extreme dedication to bicycling and running? It means that a lot of really nice fitness clothing gets donated, too! Including these $86.00 running pants, made by CW-X. They are “compression tights” and are specifically made to “wrap each muscle and ligament in such a way as to enhance performance, and speed, increase endurance and reduce post-workout fatigue.”

 In other words? These tights are so snug that nothin’ jiggles. I had read about (and coveted) them, via Runners World magazine, and therefore I knew to snatch them up when I saw them at the Goodwill for just $4.99.

This afternoon, when the boys saw me wearing them? There was a lot of oohing and aahing and a (quite rare) compliment to my looking “cool!” and even an enthusiastic comparison of my legs and Spider-mans costume…

Do you like how I put the can of fruit there, so you can do an accurate size comparison? These are teensy-tiny. I know what you are thinking:

“So. Brenda. Just how did you get your pineapple tidbits in there, anyway?”

and let me just say, it wasn’t easy, but I did it. And I ran over 5 miles in them, and they worked as described. I even learned a few things! For instance:

1. I learned that our house is exactly 2.3 miles from the closest Dari-Mart.

2. and that, if you are panting and sufficiently sweaty, and you look like you might pass out next to the Beef Jerky display? That the kind clerks at Dari-Mart will waive the .25 cent cup fee, and let you have a glass of water.

3. and also? If you are disoriented and exhausted enough to press the wrong button–you get carbonated water.

4. and if you gulp down 16 ounces of carbonated water in 30 seconds, and then start running…

5. you will burp.

6. a lot. like: overandoverandoverandover, until you start getting nervous that, like Charlie and his grandfather did, you will start rising into the atmosphere, Willy Wonka style.

7. And, if you live in a little podunk town, full of bored, desperate rednecks driving around in rusty trucks? Then–even if you are middle-aged, and wrap your legs in spandex like sausage and sweat profusely and run down the main sidewalks, belching…

you can still get a whistle or two.

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Caleb’s Short Stories

(he had to write a story this week for his Writing Class in our weekly Co-op. It was to be solely based an a three box comic strip picture they were given. I thought it was pretty clever, for eleven years old!)

Fun with Tabasco Sauce

By Caleb K

Once upon a time, there was a babysitter named Susie who was watching a little boy. It was his birthday, and his parents had left him in her care to go buy his presents.

This mischievous young boy was named Silas, and he was VERY meticulous about what he ate. Unfortunately, the parents forgot to tell Susie this, so when Susie told Silas that she was making Eggplant Waffles with Gravy, he was very unhappy. Despite his pleading, she continued to make this particularly unpleasant dish.

When she got a phone call, she jokingly told Silas not to eat anything unsanitary, and then left. Silas quietly took a chair, set it next to the counter, and stepped up to the spice cabinet. Giggling, he took out the Tabasco sauce*, stepped down, and poured the entire contents into the mixing bowl. He ran off to his Xbox to play Black Ops**and the bowl started to froth and bubble.

Susie came in to find a giant eggplant monster romping around the kitchen! Uh Oh! She battled it furiously with a wooden spoon and a whisk, and finally slayed the evil monster by stuffing it down the garbage disposal, and saved the day. (Silas saved the day from zombies while playing Xbox, but that‘s another story.)

The End.

*Yes, I know Tabasco sauce is not a spice, but his parents did not really know that much about condiments.

**Yes, Black Ops is rated M for Mature, but Silas told his parents it stands for, “Mucho fun.”

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running thoughts, part two.

Have you noticed that what we feel emotionally, often affects us physically? Tension headaches, canker sores and in bad cases (even not-so-bad cases, i.e. my wedding day!) blotchy red hives often accompany my stress. Since running, I have discovered that a heavy heart manifests itself too–as heavy feet! A few weeks ago I was feeling rotten. Stressed out, anxious about the future, and frankly just kind of sad. Let’s just say that on this particular morning I was NOT in the mood for running. I had more of the sit-on-the-couch-and-eat-lotsa-Doritos kind of mood, going on. However, I am striving to learn well the discipline of perseverance…and that means being faithful to the dog-eared piece of paper taped on our fridge–Hal Higdon’s “Half-Marathon Training Plan for the Novice” that has ruled my life since January. And sadly, it makes no mention of Nacho Cheesy Carbs combined with heavy doses of Self-Pity. It proclaimed cruelly instead: 8 MILES. So I laced up my shoes.

After the run? I was achy and sweaty and HAPPY. Somehow I was now in a totally different frame of mind. A flip had been switched and I marveled on the miracle-how could an hour and a half of actual PAIN mean I now felt peace, and  hope, and joy? Cue lightbulb moment:

Turns out that, for my attitude? prayer and running are very much the same. The main difference is that I can pray without running, but I cannot run without praying.

Since then, I have been mulling over other ways that the two disciplines are quite similar and here are a few I’ve considered:

1. Both are natural to every human alive, even if only when under threat.

As children we ran. and we talked to God. Even without anyone teaching just how, it was just natural. What a shame that we “outgrow” such simplicity!

They say there is no atheist in a foxhole, and that is also true. So often in the darkest, hardest moments of life, a person will find themselves crying out to a God they neither believed in nor honored, when their life was still good.

And so it is with running, too. Because even if you haven’t done it since childhood? You will find how comes naturally it comes back, when a vicious snarling Doberman starts after you

2. and yet…both are unnatural to our flesh.

Walking is easy, and I’d done it for years…the “experts” insisted that alone was enough to lose weight, but that wasn’t true, for me. I walked for miles, and hours, both with friends and alone. Even completed a few half-marathons, walking. A little sweaty and tired, but not broken. Not changed. Running took me out of my comfort zone, almost immediately. I was spent, and sweaty and felt completely inadequate, after only a mile. I thought I was in decent shape from years of walking and exercise but running required more than I had. Prayer is similar. I go into quiet time and happily read chapters of the Bible-love it, simple, easy. Then the time comes to pray and I am often tongue-tied. or distracted. or feel completely inadequate. Jesus warned us “Watch and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” and anyone who has risen at 6 AM to pray, and fallen asleep instead, slumped over their Bible in the recliner? Knows He is talking to them. My body IS weak. EVERYDAY my spirit craves a long hard run, yet EVERYDAY my body protests the entire way!

running: my spirit loves being outdoors, worship music on the Ipod, the challenge of persevering through pain. my body loves stopping. and eating at Taco Bell.

praying: my spirit craves time alone with God, reading His word and sharing my heart with Him. my body prefers sleeping in, reading the Pottery Barn catalog, and facebook.

3. Both require getting past the initial discomfort, to grow.

Because I was once so terribly bad at both prayer and running? I couldn’t imagine a day would come that either would become something fluid, or natural. Something I both craved and needed on a regular basis.  I stuck with prayer because I wanted to get to know this God, for myself (and the only way you connect with someone is through talking-we know this about others, but forget it is true about our Father-He’s a person.). I stuck with running out of sheer stubbornness. I kept stumbling along with both because those experts who had gone before me (found in running books and in christian books on prayer) encouraged: there are rewards. it’s hard, but it gets easier. you won’t regret a minute invested. you will be changed. keep trying. And how exciting to discover: they were right.

4. Both require lots of practice alone, before you are comfortable doing it with others.

I don’t usually like running with other people, because I get performance anxiety. Will I be slower than they are, hold them back? Will they inwardly laugh at my form, and recognize what an amateur I am? What if I don’t feel it, and take a walk break? I don’t always enjoy praying out loud in a group of people, for the same reasons. What if I don’t feel it? Are they inwardly laughing at my form? What if my words stumble and they recognize what am amateur I am?

When I was in San Francisco I ran with the group (more accurately, I ran with another Mom in the group, and the young, strong high schoolers from the track team? they ran circles around us two.) and it was one of the “stresses” before I left–how I would be giving up my alone time, running. Yes, each run started with a flurry of butterflies in my stomach and the usual insecure thoughts about how my legs looked in spandex–but then? Once I got going, my body fell into the familiar habit  formed by miles of practice and the legs churned and the arms pumped and my body said “oh yeah. running. we like this.” And the run became special, because I was now sharing the formerly solitary experience with another kindred heart who was invested and involved, with me.

Prayer has been the same way. When I am thrust into a situation where suddenly I need to pray aloud, with others? I feel the momentary butterflies and insecurities too, but, if I am what I call “good-and-prayed-up” (those dry times spiritually without much prayer? it makes praying in a group feel like a lie, and my words will just stick in my throat!) yet if I am practiced, then my spirit relaxes and my heart settles into “oh yeah. talking. with God. we like this.” And the prayer becomes special, because I am sharing the experience with kindred hearts, who are invested and involved, with me.

 5. Both of them break something inside of me.

I have become aware of a strange phenomena. After about five miles of straight running, I start to quietly cry. More than eight miles and I will collapse into a heaping pile of sobs once I am home, in the shower. I don’t know why. The first time it happened, I thought it was just the song on the iPod. The second time, I blamed those lovely female hormones.

(I was telling a friend about this curiousity, and she suggested maybe it was merely my poor body, begging me to stop this madness! ha!)

I don’t know, but I don’t fight it anymore. I let the tears roll unhindered down my cheeks and I just keep running. I have forced myself to stop analyzing it, or trying to push the tears down, out of silly fear of what the neighbors think because one day I realized: it always happens when I run over an hour or so, and this is exactly what occurs when I pray for that long. This same, deep inner place gets touched. I get up from prayer with wet cheeks, not noticing when those tears started. (I only know that the God who “holds all our tears in a bottle” must have a big jug up there, with my name on it!) Why does it happen when I run? I don’t know, or care. There are painful things which I was never able to openly cry for, and probably should have. Maybe now is the time? Whatever it is, I humbly accept it as a gift. The proof that it is mercy (and not just Brenda-being-emotional-and-or-crazy!) is in the lasting effect, after. How it is cathartic. and I feel cleansed. and my spirit grows much, much stronger.

It is just running. I get that. There is nothing magical about it, at all, I know. But I cannot help but think of Naaman-doubting. dying. desperate. Him, all covered in white leprous sores and dunking down over and over in foreign muddy river water, just in case it might possibly work…

When you ask God to heal the hurting, broken places inside you?

You don’t get to quibble with Him on the HOW.

and my being vulnerable and open, and telling the whole Internet? It is just my way of testifying to the goodness of God. He cleanses, He heals, and I AM GRATEFUL.

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a cloud for every silver lining

We had a big storm a few weeks ago, and it took out the electricity for most of Sunday afternoon and evening. We didn’t mind though! It meant extra sweatshirts put on for warmth, but it also meant Mom couldn’t cook, so we HAD to eat out, at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. No TV, computer or Xbox meant lots of candles lit, and a round of “Chatter Matters” played around the coffee table.

SO glad we don’t have a generator!

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Lessons while running, part one.

It seems every time I run, I learn something or see some analogy. The road we live on has morphed, that long stretch of asphalt has become almost holy ground to me, for all the times I’ve encountered God on it, now. Is it the solitude of it? The physical pain of the feet pounding that breaks open something locked tight inside of me, makes me more willing or able to hear Him?

I don’t know why, I just know I am grateful for the way running is making me stronger, both inside and out. And ask everyone, what I am learning I am going to talk about, because that’s just how I process stuff! This blog is kind of  a one-sided conversation and so when I get stuck on a topic (this month it happens to be running, as I gear up for the marathon) you may want to interject with a yawn, occasionally, but luckily I can’t see your eyes rolling. As always let me remind you: no one holds a gun to your head and makes you read my drivel!

Those of you still with me–do you want to hear about an aspect of running that has helped improve my every day, regular life?

Running forces me to be more balanced.

I am a passionate person, an all-or-nothing personality. Prone to great heights of joy and dark valleys of pain, in a single day. Heck, a single hour. I’ve grown used to embracing life through this filter–BUT you can’t run like that. When I started running in 2009, I didn’t know. The idea had been to run like I lived…meaning that I would tear out of the driveway and run like my feet were on fire and ignore all pain and focus on getting just as far as I could!! Before dropping in exhaustion, turning around and limping home in defeat. Surprise! I didn’t ever get very far and was filled with frustration.

Then I read beginners tips that said–duh–running is hard on the body, and not natural, and takes a lot of time and practice to build up to. If you just go all out? you will hurt yourself, and quickly give up. John Bingham said to start out running “so slow that neighbors stare and you feel a little ridiculous.” Other experts agreed. I heard “start slow, then taper”.  The Team in Training run coach suggested walking/running equal paces, (I used telephone poles) and slowly eliminating the walk breaks over time until you could eventually run the whole way. I thought this was wimpy, silly, took too long and was far too simple: how could something so easy, work? I don’t want to be coddled! Yet my way certainly wasn’t working and I still desperately wanted to learn how to run, so for once I listened to the experts and did what they said to do…and shocker! it worked.

Even now, though I can run miles without a walk break, it is only because I still force myself NOT to tear out of our driveway. I have to be balanced. I have to force my feet to maintain an even tempo, despite a fast paced song or the mornings enthusiasm or that second cup of coffee, kicking in. I have learned that I only have so much energy, and in order to have long-term success? I have to ration out my small cup of strength for the long haul. If I want to go 6 miles? I can’t spill out the contents in the first 2 miles. This has translated well into my daily life. We’ve been lied to, you know. We’ve all been told that “we can have it all, do it all, be it all” and what they forgot to add?

“but not at once.”

Another aspect of running I have added to my real life?

Watch your form. Especially when you are tired.

 I don’t mind admitting what a poser I am: My running form is a straight up copy of Jennifer Garner, the actress that played the TV spy Sydney Bristow, on the now defunct show “Alias”. I was full of quiet awe, watching her lean form jogging across the TV screen, her with the ponytail bouncing as she combined her daily cardio with dropping top-secret spy notes. There I sat on the couch, watching TV and nursing a new baby and both of us were soft and squishy and I was envious. Running wasn’t really big in Yakima (unless you were runnin from cops, haha) so this TV character was practically the only runner I had seen, and so the first time I ran and didn’t know what to do with my hands? I went all “Alias spy” in my head and tried to emulate her form. You love my dorky self, don’t you?

Later, as I read more about running I happily discovered that her form was totally correct. You need to keep a tall, straight back, yet run “loose”. Keeping your hands in a soft C shape like she did, not clenching your fists. Pumping your my arms straight back, not crossing the mid-line of your waist. I was being a goof and copying a TV star but it turned out all right! And the only thing I miss since cutting off my long hair is the feel of my heavy brown ponytail bouncing–just like Sydney’s did. She’s a foot taller than I am, but we had matching hairdos, so we could’ve passed for twins, I was convinced.

Form matters the most when you are tired. After 3-4 miles my back starts shlumping in a dowagers hump (lovely. Sydney never gets tired!) Then my arms started crossing at the waist. Soon, I realize the only view I’ve seen is the tops of my shoes, not the horizon, and I am overstriding with my legs, again. So I tell myself “Act like a fresh, strong runner!” Because I feel neither, so I really am “pretending”. It feels silly and a little hypocritical but it’s magic…every time. Just as soon as I pull my head up, straighten my posture, take shorter strides and focus on pumping my arms correctly? I feel a burst of energy and strength come back! It’s almost like my heart and mind are taking cues from my body and thinking and feeling whatever it interprets, in my physical form…

slumping? shuffling? looking down? body says–oh! she is exhausted and cannot continue. Shut down all systems!

tall back? smile on? looking ahead? body responds-oh! she’s serious, so open those reserve tanks up, baby!

So how does this correlate? Because in regular life…I get tired, too. I have walked with God 30 years now, and I still forget my form when overwhelmed or exhausted. It’s simple stuff, too–as simple as “head up, back straight”… Every day find some time for reading the Bible, and pray. It’s the “form” that gives energy, and purpose, and strength for life’s journey. Easy peasy. Know that. Of course. 30 years. got it. and yet…

When I neglect that simple form: weariness sets in my spirit, fast. I can only go “a few miles” into the day and then I am out of my own strength and naturally start “looking down at my shoes”-myself.  I revert back to my innate selfishness, and whine and grumble, and snap at the children.

The best thing to do right then? is go back to “good form”. I’ll tell myself  “okay–act like a fresh, strong Christian!” even if it feels false, or untrue at that moment.

Smile instead of snap. Serve instead of sit. Pray instead of pout.

Focus on good form: Read a few verses, pray for as long as needed-just let the Spirit of God lift these eyes up and off of myself and gaze for a bit on that horizon coming closer-eternity. Every time, I am amazed at how quickly He works, how fast He can fill a dry cup back to the brim. I feel renewed and with that fresh energy and enthusiasm, I am able to, once again,  “run the race in such a way as to gain the prize.”

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