Sunday, September 21, 2014

Easy Peasy

"I hope it's going to be easy."

"Wow, that was easy!"

"I'll do it, if it's easy."

"If only it could be this easy all the time."

Easy:  adj:  1) achieved without great effort, presenting few difficulties  
2) free from worries or problems

It really is easy to take the easy way out or at least to want to, isn't it?

From a parental stand point, things that would be easy:
having a baby that sleeps through the night from birth, a toddler that sits on the toilet for the first time and is potty trained, a child that is never rude, listens to every word you say, never lies, never sneaks, doesn't date until they are 18, gets straight A's, goes to Harvard, and marries the person you choose.

From an athletic point, things that would be easy:  
never having to train, never feeling tired, never feeling like you can't, never playing against a team that poses a threat.

From a life point, things that would be easy:
your body is invincible- you never get sick, you can eat whatever you want, your teeth are white no matter what, you always know the right things to say and everyone likes you, you always make the right choices, any job you interview for- you get

I could go on- but honestly, easy is boring.  Where is the challenge?  I'm not saying everything should be difficult and present an outrageous challenge, but it should not be easy everyday. 

Do you really want to float through life without effort?  If all these things were true, we could just drive around town in our battery powered chairs or scooters, eating cheese doodles and drinking coke- do you want to barf yet?

A few weeks ago, my son was being very difficult and it was quickly followed by my daughter having a fit about something, all while we were in hot weather with no shade watching 5 hours of youth football games.  There were bees everywhere too- it was not a good setting to be in.  I got really frustrated because I was trying to take pictures of the games and my threats of "you better stop or you're going to be in big trouble when we get home" were not working.   My initial reaction was "I quit- I don't want to be a mother anymore"- that was the easy solution.  To walk away, to pretend they weren't my kids and not have to deal with it.

Reality is, I am a mom and they are my kids.  My ability to deal with the situation and find a good outcome gets easier the more times I have to do it.  I could just walk away, but then I'm not growing as a parent and my kids aren't learning or understanding (I also might have to go to jail).  The quick solution was to let my son take one picture with my camera so he "wasn't bored" and allow my daughter to walk 1 mile home with my mom so she "wasn't hot".  The next weekend, I brought a small camera for my son to take pictures with and a tent for my daughter to be shaded with.  By learning from a situation that wasn't easy for me, I was able to make future ones less difficult. 

Last week at crossfit, I was doing a 20 min workout.  The first two rounds, one of the guys in the class was very close to me and every time we went for a run, I challenged myself to catch up with him.  The third, fourth, and fifth rounds, he was quite far ahead of me, so I noticed I didn't push on the run and settled in to an easier pace.  I was tired, but at least I was moving.  On my final round, there was just enough time left on the clock that if I ran as hard as I could, I would make it back before the clock ended.  I ran faster than any of the other rounds- it was not easy, but I did it.  

We all have the choice to go through the motions.  To move for the entire time of the workout or to complete all the reps.  We all feel our lungs burn and our bodies fatigue.  We know our limitations as far as what weights we can safely use and move properly- when enough is truly enough- but many times, we need to learn how to leave the easy zone and push a little harder.  Leaving easy when working out is what will take you to the next level.  When you have a PR or great achievement, especially in an area that was never easy for you, it is so much sweeter!  If crossfit were easy, I would have been bored with it a long time ago.  My favorite things to work on are the things that are not easy for me because when I finally get them, I feel incredible.

I've had many job interviews and many different types of jobs.  The easiest one, the one where I walked in and was handed the job, ended up being a job that was in the end stressful and not a good place for me to work.  The ones that I knew were going to be cutthroat interviews with many different candidates were the ones I prepared hours for, dressed the nicest for, and knew for a fact that I wanted the job.  

Working hard means you want something, you have passion, you are determined.  Most things are not going to happen overnight, they are going to take a lot of time and effort, but the results will be worth it.  

Easy isn't always bad- it can be good- "Mom the SAT's were easy because all my hard work and studying paid off", "Mom I got an easy PR in my race today from all that hard training I've been doing".  

Things aren't always easy until they are.  Then, when they become easy, you look for something else, you find something else to tackle because easy everyday is just boring.

Unfortunately, it's also easy to be too busy- don't become too busy trying to make things less difficult.    Don't spend all your time trying to make yourself better, training all your weaknesses in the gym, reading every single label, memorizing every fact, or signing your kid up for every extracurricular. 

Make sure to make quality time with family, friends, and yourself easy.  I think these days it really is easy to miss appreciating the simple things in life.  Work hard, play hard, learn hard, but also enjoy hard!  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

20 minutes a day

I used to get annoyed by my kids bringing home baggie books every.single.night.  Trying to find the time to sit and listen to four kids each read me a book was a lot. Sometimes, I'm not going to lie, I'd sign off on my  two older sons because they can read a 300 page book in a day- I was not worried about them.  Then, my third son came along.  It's been a journey getting him to love reading.

This year, I vowed to commit to sitting with him for 20 minutes a day while he reads to me.  I vowed that no matter what, I would listen to him read.  I make a point to stop what I'm doing and sit and listen, even if it means dinner will be served 20 minutes late.

Two weeks ago, my kids started bringing home book orders.  I've been less than thrilled with the selection Scholastic chooses to offer on their order forms (I do not particularly enjoy paying money for stories from cartoons or popular movies or ones about zombies) I decided to go to a local bookshop and purchase books for each of my kids instead.  I placed the books on a mantle in our kitchen and told them at the end of the week they could have the books if they did all their chores and homework without complaining.

The lady at the bookstore helped me choose the books.  I told her my 8 year old had trouble getting interested in a chapter book and she suggested The One and Only Ivan.  (I love shopping at a store where the employees really love and know the books).
In a nutshell, this book is about a gorilla named Ivan that was kept solitary in a glass case in a mall in Washington for 27 years.  I love how it is written from the perspective of the gorilla and how heartfelt it is.  We are only 40 or so pages in, but it is a great story so far and I look forward each day to my son reading to me.  Not only are we getting to spend one on one time together, but I can tell already his reading is getting better.
These 20 minutes a day will add up to 3600 by the time the school year is over.  I'm hoping for my son and I to enjoy many adventures through new and exciting books together this school year.  I love that I was able to find a book that is new to the two of us and is based on a true story.  I hope that it will deepen his appreciation for reading, as well as spark an interest in something greater in him.

I've never been a big animal lover, but this book is evoking some emotion, listening to the gorilla recount how many days it's been since he had a visitor, or how mistreated the animals were.  The chapters are short and the words aren't too big.  I believe it could be read and understood by kids as young as first grade, but even adults would enjoy reading it as well.  If I weren't waiting for my son to read it to me every night, I would probably go ahead and try to finish it on my own.

Listening to the story of the lonely gorilla trapped in his cage, makes me think of how fortunate I am to have a loving husband, five healthy kids, and a warm cozy home to live in.  I can't imagine being confined to a room for a day, let alone 9,000+ days.

Ivan doesn't have much contact with other animals or humans.  Makes me sad for him.  Makes me think of people who live alone or who have no friends or who are isolated.

“Is there anything sweeter than the touch of another as she pulls a dead bug from your fur?” - quote from Ivan in the book.  

Take 20 minutes a day to do something that may help someone who is lonely, or needs an extra boost.  In 20 minutes, you could drink a cup of coffee over a short conversation, you could listen to a small story, you could take a short walk, you could enjoy a short meal, you could spread some good cheer, you could provide someone with their only human contact for the whole day, you could make a phone call, or even handwrite a letter.

If you're a parent, take 20 minutes to spend undistracted with your child.  Make them feel special as you spend time with them without your phone, email, or text interrupting.  Look them in the eye when you have a conversation, rub their back, put your arm around them, give them some affirmation that they have your undivided attention and that they are special.

Take 20 minutes and help make someone else's day a little brighter.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's time to get off the sidelines

This weekend, I spent a lot of time photographing a crossfit fundraiser.  The fundraiser was a memorial for the 9-11 attacks in New York City.  The WOD (remember, workout of the day) had 343 reps to signify the number of first responders who lost their lives that day.  People were encouraged to do the workout wearing gear- it could be fire, military, police, etc.  There are a lot of firefighters who crossfit, so we were fortunate enough to have many uniforms for people to borrow.

Not only could you wear a uniform, but there were different levels of uniform people wore.  Some people just wore the pants, or the pants and jacket, or the pants, jacket, and helmet, and some even wore their masks and oxygen tanks as well.  There were bullet proof vests, weighted vests, jumpsuits, boots, hard hats- it was incredible.
I have been asked "why bother", "what's the point".

I actually started typing this in the morning and got writer's block (that, and my three sons had football games I needed to go to).

During the game, I got really mad because a few loud parents were ruining my experience at my son's game- which, by the way, my sons are 8, 9, and 11- so none of them are paid professionals.  These parents, with their beer guts and wheezy lungs are sitting there yelling furiously at their kids for missing plays or congratulating them on a vicious tackle.  "Bring him down again, then he won't ever want to touch the ball, you'll show him!"  Yes, that is a quote I heard.

It dawned on me how easy it is to know how to play a game when you are not playing it.  The play would have been perfect if they just did it your way, or better yet, you were in there doing it for them.

After the game, it finally came to me- we spend a lot of life on the side lines.  It's so easy to be on the outside looking in, wishing, hoping, judging, coaching, telling, all knowing- it's just so easy to know what to do when it's not you.

How many times have you heard someone complain about a cop or an emergency worker, how the ambulance driver could have done this or that, or if I were that person, I would do it this way.  It is just so darn easy to do it right when you don't have to do it at all.

The military, the news can give them such a bad rep -

Read The Lone Survivor- READ IT- Don't watch the movie, read the book!!! I saw the movie and it is completely different than the book.  That book has changed my life- sometimes I try to imagine myself in a scenario from the book, even just sleeping outside in the dark in my own yard with no tent or sleeping bag- can't even.  His discussion on the rules of engagement and the media's perception of their combat decisions is incredible- it's the basis for the whole entire situation the book is written about.

Back to the workout.  Why bother?  Because we need to get off the side lines, we need to put ourselves in the positions of others sometimes to gain a better understanding and appreciation of how difficult their jobs can be.

My oldest son is 11.  What if he passed out or got seriously hurt, could I lift him- Oh heck yes!  Could you lift a person? Could you bust down a door or break a window.  Could you run up the stairs in a smoke filled house?  Could you chase a criminal down the street?

Now, put your gear on, can you still perform these same actions?
It may seem silly or weird to some people for a bunch of athletes to be hanging out together jumping on boxes and doing burpees wearing fire and police gear- but it sure isn't silly when there is an emergency and you need them to cut you out of your car or jump out a window with your child to rescue them from a burning building.

Two years ago, I photographed this same event- it was about one month after joining this particular crossfit box.  I thought it was cool but honestly, I did not understand the true meaning.

Yesterday, I truly understood the meaning.

Have you ever heard the phrase "until you've walked in their shoes"?  Well, until you've walked in a first responder's shoes, I don't think you can ever truly imagine how heroic their jobs are.  Participating in this event, wearing only a fraction of what they wear- it deepened my appreciation of all first responders and what they are willing to risk for us.

They do not get to choose the color of their shoes, or the weather or the time of day, or how long after they eat, what height they can jump, what distance they can run, which weight they are going to carry, they are put in a situation and have to go with it.  I could recognize the first responders that crossfit, because they were able to move faster and swifter with their gear on, they were able to make their oxygen tank last longer.  In a perfect world, all first responders would be crossfitters (or at least my perfect world).

Take the time this week to thank people you know who are first responders, who have served, who risk their lives for yours, who go undercover to keep drugs away from our kids, who leave their families safe at home to make sure yours are too, who don't get to choose their conditions.  Take a moment to walk in someone else's shoes.

I recommend finding a hero to read about or talk with.  Listen to their story, and their conditions.  Think about how you would or would not have been able to handle it.  Find a situation you are in that you are struggling with and use that hero's story to summon the courage to get through yours.

Strength comes from within.  We all have the capability to handle things we don't even know are going to happen- we can never prepare fully for these things, but heck if I'm going to sit around on the sidelines day in and day out.  I'm getting out of my chair and I'm going in for the play.  You can too!