The perks of “training”

The landscape has changed since I first got on the bike this spring.

Early April Mayview/ Wonderland Trail view spot: mayview.spring

Late April:         mayview.view

Spring training included a 32 mile benefit bike ride in Asheville in mid-May.  Here we are after the ride:   

 wheel.ride                                                                              (There really are bikes behind us on the car!)       

“Training” can include hiking with the kids, too.  Above the Blue Ridge Parkway in early June:

 rough.ridge.AZ

rough.ridge

Turkeybeard and Mountain Laurel:

turkey.beard         mtn.laurel

And finally, a poem from a few years back about running in the Moses Cone Memorial Park.  As much as I am, and will probably always be, a slow and labored runner, I was reminded again this morning, when I passed within feet of a group of shiny black cows lying in a grove of rhododendron, that I almost always see something beautiful and interesting when I’m running.  And I almost always feel some glimmer of insight or inspiration that I might not have experienced were it not for the run.

What Crosses My Path

A pileated woodpecker, straight arrowed
tree to tree, ancient hatchet head.  Two deer,
in my near-sightedness, I momentarily mistake
for silent bounding golden retrievers.
Noble air of national park and the sanctity
of old land.  Ghosts of gentry
picnicking in the overgrown orchard.
Hand-laid stones.
My own heart thumping before me.
My inexorable thoughts.
Firepinks, scarlet stars, joined by spiderwort
spike and mountain laurel, convened
to tell me again
of what has come and gone.
And what will remain.

                

One week, two weeks — who’s counting?!

OK, I’m back to report on what I’ve done to work towards my goals since my last post. I didn’t post in one week, as promised — but I did accomplish a few things.

Training for a triathlon:

A) Swimming: 3x = 54 laps = 2,700 yards = 1.53 miles.

Swimming was great — relaxing, peaceful, and invigorating, all at the same time — a perfect exercise — except for the part where it may tend to get boring. I felt really good in the pool, but I have a long way to go before I’m comfortable and confident swimming .6 miles in open water. I’m hoping that putting in a decent amount of pool time and building stamina will move me forward to where the lake swim doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I’ll also need to practice in the lake once the weather gets warmer.

B) Running: 2x = 3.81 miles.

Trying it out and not pushing for much distance — felt good — weirdly ran faster than usual. This may be because the gps on my iPhone app wasn’t working right. It seemed to be recording everything, but the run was in an area without much signal, so wondering… However, for now, will go with the theory that I’m stronger and faster than I realize! : )

C) Biking: 0 (i.e. big fat goose egg). : (

Cycling is the least intimidating — the thing I know I can do (and probably not be last!), so I guess I’m not as worried about that as the running and swimming. Nevertheless, I need to get on it! Literally. The bike.

Things I need to get better at:

Seizing the moment when there’s an opportunity to exercise. We had a spring snow storm this past week, so that was a set-back. (The kids even missed three days of school — groan!) But right now it’s actually pretty nice out (though still snow on the ground). A real runner would probably be out on the trails sloshing through the slush, but I’m lolling around the house with the kids. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that I could get outside until it seemed too late. It’s true what they say about making yourself go [running, biking, etc.] being the hardest part. I can’t wait around for the perfect convergence of convenience and motivation before I exercise!

Recognizing that friends can help. I’m a self-conscious athlete who generally feels silly (even ridiculous) while athleticizing (silly made-up word). This stuff just does not come naturally to me! However, I think I need to realize that friends can provide motivation and inspiration — try that out — let go of feeling dorky and inferior and exercise with buddies from time-to-time!

Well, I had a few more things to add to this — and was even going to give an update on my other goal (aka “the poetry project”). But my son is agitating to use the computer so, for the sake of posting something, I’m going to cut it short. Will try to come back soon. I hope you all are enjoying the spring! I love the changing of seasons and always find each turn in the yearly cycle exciting, as well as being a natural time for contemplation and new (or renewed) visions. What about you? What is this spring bringing for you?

Goals??? Who said anything about goals?

OK, so this is getting a little embarrassing.  It’s been more than a month since I mentioned that I wanted to accomplish something big before turning 50, and I still haven’t put my money where my mouth is and 1) pledged to my goals and 2) begun to achieve them.  Life continues to take me in different directions — away from writing and away from genuine focus and commitment to what I want to accomplish.  In trying to take the long view, I figure there is some reason for all of this playing out the way it is.  In the end, there will be clarity and sense of purpose that transcends children’s homework, money worries, and household headaches.

The funny thing is, I think my foot-dragging on “the goals” is actually becoming a bit of a psychic millstone — so I figure I better just put it out there so I can move on.

Here goes.  Ack.

1) Participate in a triathlon.

I guess by “participate”, I mean start and finish all three parts of a triathlon.  What is the correct term?  It’s not “run a triathlon” because there’s biking and swimming involved, too.  Swimming… gulp… in open water, in a big deep lake.  : (

2) Publish a volume of poetry.

Uh, yeah, that one’s a little wacky and far out.  Not to mention something that feels almost completely out of my control and destined for crushing failure.  Fine choice.  Yup.

There I’ve said it.  As you can see, my mood is not ideal for the official launch of my big year.  I may never mention these things again.

Goals???  What goals?

Visual representation — the “before” picture:

kpr.dec.2012What will “after” look like?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and accounts of goals, resolutions, challenges.  What successes have you had?  What failures?  Could you find a way to think about your failure differently to realize that maybe it was actually a success?

No news is good news or “Oh, wow, it’s the last day of July and I’m finally writing a blog post!”

Warning:  this post contains several disclaimers, which I’m pretty sure is poor form in the blogosphere — and in the world of writing, generally (i.e. “sorry, this piece of writing kind of sucks because I’ve been stressed out lately, but bear with me…”).

First, I’m feeling a little distracted today.  We dropped our kids off for a week of summer camp on Sunday.  Anyone who knows me will remember last summer when Zoe went to camp for the first time.  The drop-off was less than inspiring.   First we had to sit in the car for 45 minutes during an horrendous storm before we could unload; Zoe immediately fell in a huge mud puddle and soaked her bottom getting out of the car; the cabin was cramped, dark, and crowded with wet, stressed-out parents all trying to get their kids settled at the same time; good byes were hurried.  We drove away feeling uneasy and anxious, and that feeling lingered — exaserbated by the dearth of happy, candid photos of my daughter on the camp website — for the next three days, until I got the first letter from Zoe saying she was having a great time.

Fast forward to summer 2012.  Once again, it’s time for camp.  Zoe is a pro by now — but this time, it’s Alexander’s first year.  Cue the maternal anxiety.  But wait!  Before you decide I’m a totally neurotic parent, know that I’m sending Zander off with a freshly broken arm and terrible poison ivy that has been keeping him awake and miserable every night for the past two weeks.  Oh, yeah, and he’s practically blind without his glasses (which I neglected to even mention to his counselor or write down anywhere on any of the forms).  So, yeah, I’m a little worried.  And therein lies the heart of disclaimer #1:  “I can’t write a good blog post because I’m unsettled and distracted!”

Second, I must confess that I started this post several weeks ago and have been working on it, half-heartedly, ever since.  As blogging goes, this is not a great approach.  The best blog posts I’ve written (in my humble opinion) have sprung almost fully-formed directly from heart, mind, soul (or where ever the home of inspired writing is located) to paper/ computer.  Thus, disclaimer #2:  “This blog post might be disjointed and meandering because it’s taken me forever to write.”  OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here goes…

A friend from my poetry group just adopted a baby boy.  He and his wife are my age (i.e. mid-forties), and I’ve been wondering how that is for them — waking up in the night, soothing a fussy infant, cradling a mysterious and amazing new life.  I feel as though I’m at the other end of that journey — not THE journey, the one that ends in…  well, you know…  But that I’m at a distinct point on the arc of life or, more specifically, nearing an end in a phase of my parenting life.  I’m feeling the passing of time in a different way this summer.

No, my children are not graduating from high school, getting married or even learning to drive.  They only turned 11 a few weeks ago.  They’re not very sophisticated or savvy kids, still not terribly “teen-ish”, I’m happy to say.   Nevertheless, I feel it — like a cool summer breeze blowing through an open door in another part of the house. Things are changing.   For the first time, the idea of my kids “growing up” and eventually leaving has started to enter my consciousness in a  more tangible way.  Maybe it’s because some of my friends who have older children are hitting big milestones, which makes it more real.  Maybe it’s their souls speaking to mine — beginning to whisper goodbye.

This summer has been great in lots of ways (and not so great in others).  Zoe and Alexander have taken their outdoor free time to a new level.  Our neighborhood is perfect for doing all the terrific things that people say kids don’t do enough of these days — riding bikes, exploring, building tree forts, selling lemonade, picking blueberries, inventing things, making kid plans.  I’ve loved seeing my kids re-connecting with old friends and reaching out to new ones — taking initiative, trying new things.  They are bolder and more confident than I was at their age.

With this increased independence has come some unexpected consequences:  both my children have had their first broken bones this summer.  In mid-June, Zoe crushed her thumb playing with an antique lawn roller behind my husband’s metal shop (yes, that’s about as bad as it sounds).  Almost exactly a month later, Alexander bobbled his bike riding uphill on a gravel road in our neighborhood, fell into a ditch full of poison ivy, and broke his wrist.

They’ve both handled their injuries well.  I’ve been impressed with their toughness and self-sufficiency.  The hardest thing in all of this has been Alexander’s poison ivy.  He’s called me into his room many nights over the past few weeks — beside himself with the pain and itching.  Even as I do my best to soothe him, this unexpected need for parental comfort paradoxically triggers an acute sense in me of my children’s growing independence and the waning of their childhood days.

I wrote this poem when the kids were six.  It’s one that a lot of my friends have seen already, but it’s really resonating for me this summer.

Pluto

My son will be the last boy
to know Pluto was once a planet.
At six, he’s well-versed
in nostalgia and remorse,
the quiver of injustice.
Little Pluto’s an easy mark
for a child’s empathy.  Even now,
nothing’s simple for him, my small
brilliant star, thin-skinned
and yearning to be good
at all things.  Done with
the trying day, he sleeps hard
and fast.  I enter his room
for the nightly ritual,
darkening the fish tank,
quick kiss of hot forehead.
There’s a galaxy here,
and I’m only a visitor.
I miss him already.
We’re doomed that way,
he and I, regretting the shot
before the arrow’s loosed,
ready to reminisce when
the day’s not yet spent.
We both know, after all,
that the universe
is expanding.
We’re moving apart,
faster and faster.

Summer’s nearly over for us.  School starts on August 8 (just a few days after the kids return from camp).  I go back to work full-time the same day.  In past summers (last year comes to mind), I’ve been eager for school to start — feeling overdone, ready to return to routines and regular schedules.  This summer, I’m not feeling that way.

I want more.

In the meantime, no letter from Alexander, but I did see a picture of him with a smile on his face on the camp website.  Last year, when filling out a post-camp evaluation, I suggested that the camp director, or a counselor, could send a one time email to the parents of first-time campers at the beginning of session, letting them know that all was well.  The response I got (boiled down to its essence):  Don’t call us; we’ll call you.  We can handle it.  No news is good news.

I hope your summers have been interesting and inspiring, full of joy, exploration and growth.  Please post your own summer thoughts!

I forgot; actually, it’s February that gets me down.

OK, I admit it.  I’m in a funk.  The long, bleak month of January has given way to February, and I’m still in the doldrums.  I can’t even blame my mood on fierce and relentless winter weather (like the kind we had during the past two years).  In fact, my complaint this year is that it’s not wintery enough!  The abnormally warm temperatures and eerie dearth of snow have me feeling unsettled and ill at ease.  We’re missing a season, and it’s messing with my personal rhythm of things and leaving me at loose ends.  There’s no triumph or inspiration to be had in this lame excuse for a winter!

Here’s a little poem I wrote about it:

Unseasonable

The moon’s been too bright
all month

insistent night light,
relentless flood

tree trunks stand white
against the barren woods

nothing sparkles

deep in their mud,
frogs wait for snow.

As you can see, I’m taking this personally.  My parenting has been in a rut, too, and, like the weather, uninspired.  Despite my best intentions, I find myself losing patience, nagging, and feeling discouraged that my children are not responding positively to my efforts.

However, we are sticking with the no-screen-time-on-school-nights policy, and I continue to see that as a positive thing.  A few people have asked me how it’s going and how I dealt with Alexander bringing the issue up for discussion at a family meeting.  The screen time policy has been placed on the family meeting agenda a few times in the past month, but each time it’s been tabled — either due to lack of consensus or lack of time.  Zander has not been a strong advocate for change.  Although he doesn’t like the policy, he seems to recognize, on some level, the benefits of the new routine, and he has not fought too hard.  A few weeks ago, I came across the following paragraph in his weekly writing assignment for school:

“I think my parents are reasonably fair because they don’t let me watch TV on week nights, but we practically get free range on the weekend.  So, in the overall scheme of things, my parents are pretty fair.”

So, there you go.  Acceptance?  Resignation?  Whatever.  I got my way, and I think it’s right!  : )

As for all the other parenting issues that have reared their ugly heads during this lackluster January and February, I will leave those for another blog post.  Or, better yet, maybe I’ll lay a few of those issues to rest before my next post and will have something new to write about!

A picture of our driveway in more exciting winter times (December 2009)

Well, maybe not so exciting for the cat…

How are other people doing this winter?

January gets to me every year

Today my work life, my parenting life, and the quirks of my mood have converged badly.  Even a walk did not lift my spirits as much as I hoped.  It helps when I remember that January always feels like a long month to me.

Lucky

Even after walking to the top
of the hill and looking back
to see the road twisting like a snake
below me, and the neighborhood pond
distant and tidy, realizing again
how different things are
just coming up here, past
the place where the field
rises so steeply from the road
that there’s only sky
above its stubbled arc,
feeling my cheeks grow cold
and then warm again,
lengthening my stride
and remembering
other walks and seasons,
I’m still sad, still feeling
discouraged and depleted.
The world hasn’t worked
its magic for me today.
But I know it won’t
be this way forever,
probably not even
tomorrow.

Three cats and a bunny, plus the best thing I ever did on Facebook

Three cats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a bunny.

Last winter, I posted a quick reflection on parenthood on my Facebook page in the form of a 30 second poem.  I asked friends to post their own short poems.  To my delight, a good handful did post poems.  It was really cool!  First, because, in my experience, most people just do not ordinarily write poems.  I loved that my friends were willing to jump into some spontaneous poetry-writing.  Second, there was an immediate sense of connection in what was written, common threads linking my friends from Massachusetts to Alaska.  And the poems were really good.

We had an easy and low-key Thanksgiving.  The weather was spectacular, too, which made it easy to be appreciative.  Over the long weekend, as I contemplated November’s end, I remembered last winter’s 30 second poems.  What the poems show and remind me is that there is sweetness in life — even in the trying, tiring times, even in the mundane moments of routine.  Sometimes the sweetness is bittersweet; sometimes it’s tinged with half-demented hilarity, sometimes it’s a small sweetness that seems overshadowed by other things.  But it’s there.

Here’s what we wrote, beginning with the one I posted.  Write one and post it, if you want, quick and simple.

Morning (30 second poem)

I wake up early
make coffee
cat wrangle
while the family sleeps
warm the house
keep the peace.

before the light
sneaking moments
quiet hum of respiration.

It’s another day in paradise
knowing the woman of my dreams
is here taking great care of us all,
and that my kids are well and happy.

One at school
One to enjoy for the day
Two bright lights

espresso bubbling on the wood stove
wakes me from a fitful night with a sick child
rocking by the fire, and
reading to soothe the flu
winter arrives with a fury

Balancing the guilt of being too strict,
I take him out of school for half the day
and we play.

Eyes open to the dark within the dark
first denial and then acceptance
wake the sweet dreamers to enter
their salty start to the day,
madness begins

crack o’ dawn,
mouth crusty,
back rusty,
I rise and yawn

Sometimes I wish
I could stop
Setting limits
Enforcing rules
Playing cop
cooking cleaning
dressing encouraging
buckling in
Sometimes I wish
I could break all the rules
watch action movies
have pizza and root beer
play video games
all day long
with my son
Sometime I wish
I could be a dad.

Nice, huh?