Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not So Fast


It's all too familiar to me - what I call the treadmill syndrome of waking and eating and sleeping with life rushing by in my peripheral view. How many nights have I laid my head on the pillow resolving that tomorrow will be different? Tomorrow I will sit down to read picture books to my children, teach my daughter how to tie a bow, or simply bake something just for fun together... but somehow these things get lost in the tasks of managing a home and simply carrying out the tasks of life. Desk work and school work and activities take priority over down time, and those moments morph into days and into weeks, and all of the sudden time has passed me by. And I haven't sat with or walked with or looked into my children's (or husband's!) eyes the way I long to.
Really, that slow time is where the important stuff happens. Not just with my family, but with friends and neighbors as well. When people enter my day whether through the front door or via phone calls, I want them to have my attention so that I can enjoy these relationships.
Maybe I'm just not great at managing my family and my time. Not intentional enough, or too task-oriented. But my guess is that I'm not the only one who feels this tension of wanting to slow down, desiring to play in the landscape and not just watch it blur past.
If you need a little encouragement, a little kick in the rear to consider slowing down, Ann Kroeker offers some great suggestions and insights in her book, "Not So Fast - Slow Down Solutions for Frenzied Families."
A few of my favorite chapters:
- What Are We Missing Out On?
- Too Fast to Care
- Too Fast to Rest
- Load Limits
- Forget the Joneses
- Slow Enough to Savor Traditions
- Slowing Down Spending
- The Unhurried Family
I originally checked this book out from the library, but it's worth purchasing for Kroeker's chapter-end "Slow Zone" suggestions and questions for reflection. These sections are great catalysts for journaling, and ideally revisiting every couple of years as family stages and ages change.
So what are you waiting for - put your feet up, relax a little, and happy reading!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Angel Fire or Bust!

The headlights from behind flashed in a bright, frenzied pattern. Checking the rear-view mirror, I saw Courtney’s car pull to the side of the road, her brights still flashing off and on. I pulled onto the shoulder of the desolate two-lane highway, darkness cloaking the landscape. The lights from our two cars illuminated the black road winding toward the mountains.
After a full day of driving, we were just a couple hours shy of our destination as we stopped outside of Springer, NM.
“U ok?” I texted.
My phone rang and her words rushed out, “I just nailed a deer. A huge buck, maybe an elk?!”
“What?! Everyone ok?”
I thought of our four boys sharing Nintendos and Ipods, peering out the front window with wide eyes and a rush of adrenaline as the SUV hit the enormous animal at full speed.
“Yeah, we’re all fine, I mean, that thing just ran right in front of my car. There can’t be anything left of it.”
“Want me to drive back there?”

“I think we’re ok. Let me check the damage. Just a sec, going to look at the front of the car.”
I circled back to Courtney’s suburban, whispering a prayer of gratitude that the buck didn’t go flying through her front windshield, and that she didn’t swerve but instead knew to hit the animal straight on to keep from crashing.
“Hey TJ, the boys want to try and find the buck. You ok with that?”
(Laughing) “Sure.”
I drove on slowly past her suburban, shining my brights into the mountainous no-man’s-land, cringing at what I might see. At once the huge buck lumbered right into the beam of my headlights, jerking it’s body right and left, crying out from obvious pain.
Oh no.
Worse than road kill, this animal was ALIVE and in tremendous pain.
Courtney pulled up next to me, the beams of her car narrowed in on the dying deer. Rolling down her window she said, “TJ, I can shoot it. What do you think?”
I knew her dad’s gun was tucked away in the glove compartment, but I also knew she didn’t have a New Mexico hunting license.

“Courtney! You can’t use that gun here without a license!”
Later I regretted not encouraging her to put the poor thing out of it’s misery. Not only would the buck have been relieved of its suffering, but my boys would have had a STORY to tell...

So this was the introduction to our very fun, very eventful trip. My friend Courtney and I just took our (seven!) kids on a week-long ski trip. We successfully got our kids to Angel Fire, NM, got them on the mountain with all the necessary gear, and enjoyed a week of skiing and snowboarding. We enrolled the kids in ski and snowboard school and ended up with all-day private lessons because NO ONE was on the mountain. Literally, our kids had two-on-one, all-day lessons with snowboard and ski instructors for a fraction of the cost because they were the only ones in ski and snowboard school.

By the end of our week, our first-time skiers Basden and Caroline cruised down blues, and all of our first-time snowboarding boys looked like they’d been on boards for years. Even after consecutive full days on the mountain, none of the kids were ready to stop. I told Courtney I felt like it was such a GIFT to have this week, pivotal for all of our children in regards to learning skiing and snowboarding skills.

Corbin, Todd, Mama and Papa got there half-way through our week, and then the real fun began. Yummy meals, a home brimming with family and friends, and sunny days on the slopes with our families.

My favorites from our week:
- Down time with the Breedings, long-time friends from church. Our kids were such compliments to each other; everyone but Esther had a perfectly-matched playmate (and even then Essie made her way in to play with whomever she wanted.)
- Simply spending time at Papa’s Mountains - lounging in the lodge with a hot cup of coffee while the kids whisked down sleds from the road to the pond.
- Cameron keeping Esther ALL WEEK while we skied. And then convincing me that she loved every minute of it.
- Corbin and Uncle Alan pulling kids and sleds up the hill on snowmobiles for hours on end.
- Watching Bran and Hud (and Ashton and Sawyer and Foster) scoot down the mountain on snowboards, gliding left and right and jumping like experts. I was amazed at their ability in such a short amount of time.
- Basden’s cautious manner of wanting to ski “pizza-style” and not go too fast with “french fries.” But as she grew more comfortable skiing, her wedge gradually turned parallel without much effort. And she LOVED every minute of it.
- Mama and Papa’s sacrificial love, giving up their bedroom all week for Corbin and me. They flew in from Seattle after keeping River and Nera for a week, and then came “home” to camp out at Cam’s for the rest of the week. As always, they made us feel like a very welcomed disturbance to their quiet and accommodating lodge.

This bragging Mommy must end with a few (very short!) videos. Here's Bran, Hud & Basden (with Daddy) on the slopes:
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Differentiating

Our Christmas tree was a little Charlie-Brownish this year. And if I'm honest, it was last year, too. Decorated almost entirely by the younger members of our family, the ornaments clung in tight little groupings on low-hanging branches, ribbons swirled through limbs in awkward, uneven loops, and gaping holes revealed the window beyond as Corbin and I didn't take the time to fluff and arrange the fake boughs.
Oh well.
It was a happy tree, with ornaments showcasing memories from thirteen years of marriage and a decade of parenting.
So as I type, the Christmas decorations are down and (mostly!) put away. Suitcases and bags from holiday travel are unpacked, and mountains of laundry have been washed and put away - a smallish heap of clean colors mounded on the top of our washer.
Like most everyone, we're recovering from the holidays and getting settled in to the new year. A friend and I have encouraged each other this week to breathe deep, take one moment at a time, and try to relax in the midst of holiday clean-up. The "getting back to normal" can be overwhelming with mile-long to-do lists. And the new year brings such a strong desire to get our hearts and homes back in order.
Meanwhile, we are surrounded by families and friends who face significant tragedy and difficulty. Overstuffed toy boxes and too-full closets don't even make the list. It's a wake up call to what's really important, to the kinds of things that really make us stop (or kneel) to take a deep breath:
- My college roommate moving her family across the country to care for her terminally-ill mother. She and her husband are immersed in caring for the physical and emotional needs of her mother, settling into a completely new culture and town and school, working from a new location, all the while operating a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering impoverished women around the world.
- A bright, beautiful friend fighting hard to curtail an impending divorce while keeping her kids' heads above water.
- The families at Fort Worth's Ronald McDonald house spending their holidays at the hospital with premature babies and bone marrow transplants and kidney dialysis. We spend an evening at the RMD house every few months, eating meals with shell-shocked families whose 2 lb, two-day old baby fights for her life in the NICU. Or whose fourth-grade daughter was just diagnosed with leukemia. Or the families we see again and again who spend month upon month living next door to a children's hospital and deal with crushing illnesses.

These situations lessen my concerns of coordinating Christmas gift wrap, a cluttered garage, and closets that need a catharsis.
We tend to detach from sights and situations that make us feel badly about ourselves - especially when we feel powerless. If we think we can't do anything about a bad situation, we'd just as soon not have to see it. Here's the trap, however: If we distance ourselves long enough from real needs, we replace them with those that aren't. Pretense becomes the new real and suddenly a delay of our new couch becomes a terrible upset. We are wise to force ourselves to keep differentiating between simple inconveniences and authentic tribulations. The more detached and self-absorbed we become, the more we mistake annoyances for agonies. - Beth Moore (Esther study)

I don't want to lose perspective. At some point I'm going to be the one needing meals, babysitters, prayers, and a listening ear. I'll need someone to come and and walk a difficult road with me. And I want my family and friends to view me through eternal, grace-filled eyes, to differentiate between inconveniences and tribulations, and to choose me over closets.

Lord, open my eyes to the real needs around me, to where my time and energies might go today. My natural bent is to get side-railed by interruptions and minor disappointments. Help me to see through grateful eyes. I trust you with these families and my own.