Today, I Am An Athlete

Yea, right. Everyone, who knows me, is laughing, like hell, right now! She just called herself an athlete? HA!

I was the kid who was picked last for any game in gym class. I’m the one who joined a coed volleyball team, as an adult, and at the end-of-season social gathering, silly prizes were distributed. My prize was a rag; given to me to represent all the time I spent on the floor, ducking to get away from that volleyball. They said, “As long as you’re down there, you might as well keep the floor dry for us.” Later in my life, I bought a bike. I took it for a ride. It was a scenic ride, through a wooded area, but it was totally downhill. I had the brakes on the entire time, gripping them with everything in my being. I have, now, moved the bike to three different homes, but haven’t gotten on it since. More years pass. I get older, weigh more (too much) so I decide to join a gym. Looking back on that early experience, I think that I must have assumed that just being in the gym was exercise enough because this was my routine…I took along my Kindle with my favorite book loaded, propped it up on the treadmill and started to walk, slowly enough so that 1) I could easily read my book and 2) I didn’t sweat. I wasn’t a fan of sweating. Well, needless to say, I never lost any weight or got any stronger. Instead, I grew tired of the trip to the gym just to read a book. So, you must be really wondering, now,  why I have chosen this metaphor for myself today. It doesn’t seem to fit…at all!

I chose this metaphor because, I think, deep down we all want to be athletes and we want to be winners. This week, watching the NCAA Championship game gave me the opportunity to witness true, driving athleticism. It was a visible display of focus, intent, and power. I could tell that the skill didn’t come from wishes and hopes or weak attempts but, instead, from practice and determination to be the best and then more practice and more determination because you can always be better. In the end, my team didn’t win the game, but, oh yes, they did! They showed thousands of people what being an athlete really means. It means believing that you are a winner. It means, remaining humble and lighthearted when the pressure to succeed grows intense. It means staying focused on one goal at a time. It means never giving up. It means pushing yourself well past the point of tired. And, it means being proud of what you’ve accomplished, even if you don’t hold the “winning” trophy at the end. This team won our hearts. They were, indeed, true winners!

I think I’m finding that kind of winner in me!

What is your motivator? For me, the motivation, that finely pushed me, was frustration and anger. I was frustrated with the voices that said that I lacked coordination, was too weak, and too old to change. It made me angry when I heard those voices saying that I just needed to accept the fact that getting older means accepting weakness, aches, and pains as normal for my age. Frustration and anger became my motivation to put myself back in the game.

Today, I sweat through cardio exercises, push myself through squats, am working on the tightest abs I’ve had since I turned 40 and I lift weights, a little heavier each time. Initially, there was that voice saying, “You can’t do this!” but there was another, more positive voice saying “Yes, you can. Just try.” With a mix of feelings; frustration, surprise, joy…and pain, I realized that sweating can make you smile. Some days, I struggle more than others but that positive voice is there, saying “Just 5 more. You can do it…4, 3, 2…come on “I’ve got you.” And, when I finish, I am ecstatic! And that voice says, “You just burned through another level.”

Some days my muscles sing in pure pain but I hear those positive words ringing through loud and clear, “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.” So, again I smile. That’s why I think that, today, I can call myself an athlete. I’m not a mountain of muscle, but I’m growing stronger every day. I hurt, but so do others, and they still show up with determination and I can too! Some days, I’m slower, but I keep moving. This challenge is not a race. I’m not competing with anyone but me. And what’s most important is that I show up.

But, now, it’s about more that physical fitness. I want to be in this big game, called Life! So, I’ve added that to my goal. Pushing through exercises is preparing me to take whatever other burdens are placed on my shoulders and push through it. Life hands out some pretty heavy weights, at times, throwing you off balance, sometimes moving you to tears. But, if an athlete shows determination, focus, and drive, then that’s what I have to do. If an athlete is disappointed, even heartbroken, by a loss, they don’t quit, instead they  review the loss for it’s lessons, and go out and play again and again. An athlete says “I am a winner”. A failure one day is just that, a failure one day. They don’t all of a sudden say “I am a failure.”  They get up and try again. So, they never really lose. A score on the board (or on the scale) is just a number. I want to be the kind of winner who walks away, in the end, stinking with sweat but so damn proud of how well I played the game. Today, I am a winner. And I will push myself to keep saying that every day for the rest of my life. I must be an athlete!

Now, I’d better get up, out of this chair, and go for a walk. And, I should put air in those bicycle tires.

Life Is A Game

imageLife’s A Game
You have to be in it to win it.

I had a dream. It woke me up: it was so upsetting.

I had won. He gave me one one-hundred dollar bill and rolls of quarters to equal four hundred more. I don’t question the logic in a dream! I put them all into a bag, along with a bottle of wine, and went off to a ball game. Again, don’t question. I tucked my winnings under my seat and started watching the game. After a while, I became complacent and wandered off to a back room where I turned my attention to scrapbooking some of my favorite photos.(Shh) I returned to the game, once, to make sure that my bag was still safely under my seat but then retreated to the back room again. My bag was safe, and the game was still going on as usual. It didn’t need my attention.

I was working away, with focus and joy on my project, when, all of a sudden, I realized that I no longer heard the crowd noise. Everything had become silent. When did that happen? I jumped up and ran towards the stadium seating only to discover that it had grown dark and I could no longer see where my seat was! My money, my bag of money! I needed to get that bag of money.

And then I woke up. Immediately, I reached for a notebook to write this down. This one was too intriguing to let go. I don’t remember or bother to write down the boring dreams.

While I am no dream analysis expert, I do enjoy trying to figure out the deep dark musings of my sleep mind. I mean, really, who has a dream where they win a bag of quarters? And then, carry it into a game with a bottle of wine?

Well, as I ponder the potential meaning of this ridiculous dream, I try to equate it with my current life circumstances. It’s got to be about something that I carried into bed with me the night before, right? And, no, I didn’t go to bed with a bag of money and a bottle of wine!
What I did go to bed with were thoughts of how quickly life changes from feeling as though things are happily humming along to, maybe, not.so.happily.humming.along. So, perhaps, there is a lesson tucked away in this dream. Let’s ponder that thought!

As luck would have it, today is Opening Day for baseball, here, and, it is also the day of the college basketball championship. The baseball game is the first of many. The fans will show up just to tailgate and celebrate this unofficial first day of spring. Now the basketball game, on the other hand, has even me staying up late to watch. This one is big. ON WISCONSIN!

Now, back to analyzing the dream.

I have never been a true sports fan. I go to baseball games to watch people and to my college football games to watch the half time show and participate in the fifth quarter. Even during national football games, you are just as likely to find me walking in the woods as watching the game. So that part of the dream is logical for me: go to the game, settle into a seat, then wonder off (mentally or physically, either one, to something else). It’s the part about winning a bag of money and just leaving it sitting under a seat that has me scratching my head. I mean, What is that about? Why a hundred dollar bill and rolls of quarters? When I think of quarters, I think of slot machines. Does this mean that I’m the kind of person who gambles with her money? Does it mean that I don’t care about money? And then, there’s the issue of the bottle of wine. First, how was I able to carry it into the game? Second, why? Third, and maybe most important, if I went to the trouble of carrying it in, why did I leave it under the seat instead of taking it back with me while I lingered over my photo life? And, fourth, how was it that, when I went running back to find my seat, I was only concerned about the bag of money and not the wine? Really? Maybe this means that having that glass of wine isn’t as important as I thought.

Ok, now seriously, let’s try to analyze this thing. Here’s what I come up with.

Life is a game, It’s a series of different events; each with their own beginning, middle, and end. I go into the game with a level of excitement, intrigue, anticipation, and lots of hopeful enthusiasm. Then, there’s a point where I wander off; seemingly not interested in the game going on in front of me and more interested in lingering over past memories (of previous games?). The bag of money, under the seat, seems like even if I win a game, I don’t necessarily covet the prize as much as I do the memories. The bottle of wine is a celebration tucked away for later. Then, when the current game comes to an end, as I know it will, I am surprised. Why? How many times will it take to understand that the rules never change. Everything comes to an end! Why do I always feel as though I am left in the dark, frantically running around trying to find my…self, again?

So, here I am now, thinking about how I have spent my life’s time; My Big Game. Am I winning or losing? Am I playing the game or have I wandered off spending too much time trying to turn my past into a scrapbooked work of art while today slips away?

That bag of money…my past winnings…am I celebrating my successes, am I proud of my achievements, or am I hiding them under a seat, thinking they are not as important as memories of my failures? And that silly bottle of wine. It’s taking up space in my bag. It seems to be nothing more than a burden to carry from place to place.

Here are my final, profound thoughts:
Dreams worth writing down are worth thinking about.
Life is a game.
You can’t win, at life, if you don’t put yourself in the game.
Remember, every game has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I have an amazing collection of memories: funny and sad, good and bad, my very own scrapbooked work of art.
Now I just need to make sure that all of the memories show proof that it was a game well played.
Don’t linger too long over past wins and losses. Today is the only game that counts.

Now, GO BADGERS!

Go Ahead, Sail Off Into The Future

Sail
See how far you get

Looking out on the horizon, when you’re young, you are confident that you’re sailing towards great things; you know, that pot at the end of the rainbow. that buried treasure. During my generation, I assumed that I had to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up but when I wasn’t at the top by the time I reached 50, I got impatient and resorted to dreams of winning the lottery. Then I’d have that pot of gold, by, say, tomorrow! And then, I could just go out and buy that fabulous life. I mean, come on, now, I’m 50 years old! Well, I waited for that instant wealth, but, still, I had to go about the day to day business of sailing the vessel that I had, in the meantime. I’ve never been fond of water. I don’t swim well, at all, so thinking about being on a sailboat out on open water, with all of the elements, makes me just quiver. But, symbolically, it is a perfect way to talk about life’s journey.
So, now, I reflect on my life as a sailor. I knew, kind of, that I needed a plan (map), the right tools, and the skills to sail. But life doesn’t automatically set you up with those things. I actually had to put this all together myself?
Again, this is a big ah-hah that I’ve learned now that I’m old and know what it’s like to get on that damn boat without all of the above.
I suppose someone told me that going off and sailing my own boat wasn’t going to be easy but you know, kids! I assumed all those “old people” were just trying to scare me to keep me stuck at home.
For me, I went sailing off to college, with all my graduation presents (still in boxes) to set up my first dorm room; a brand new clock radio, a portable hair dryer, and a new portable typewriter. My new three piece luggage set carried all, and I mean all, of my clothes and other valuables. I was ready! Let’s do this college thing.
But then, I got to my designated room only to find out that my roommate was the floor monitor which meant that she was a Senior and was supposed to have the room to herself only there were too many new Freshman. That meant that she was forced to share her room with me! So, guess what, she was mad. She had also been told that I was a non-smoker but she was a smoker so now she was going to have to leave her own room to find a place to smoke. Lucky for her, I had taken up the habit over the summer and when she found that out she didn’t think I was half bad after all. That was the only time, I think, that smoking worked in my favor. Still, she didn’t plan on hanging out with me much. I mean, really! I was just a freshman; such a newbie that I had to read the directions that came with my new clock radio to figure out how to set the alarm!
My mother thought that college was a waste of time for a girl so it didn’t help that I had no plan for a major. I guess I thought I’d figure it out as I went along. And sure enough I did. There were little clues along the way that rocked my boat but pointed me in the right direction. For instance, I found myself begging one teacher for a “C”. The course was accounting. Did you know that the role of debits and credits change depending out which side of the ledger you are looking at? I promised him that I’d leave the school of business if he’d just pass me. I was drowning in assignment due dates, test after test, after test. My ship was rocking in a sea, of courses, that I didn’t even like! It was the end of my Sophomore year that I decided to pick up a map and plot the course. What a concept!
I charted out a course and found myself in calmer waters for the rest of my college days. In fact, for a period of time, there, I even got to enjoy the peacefulness of sailing and the beauty of a sunset or two.
Still, you know, it probably would have been wiser to get my sea legs steady, on a little boat, on a smaller body of water, rather than putting that sailboat into the ocean and just trusting that there would be enough wind and that the wind would take me to my destination, when even I didn’t know where my destination was.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I set sail and then veered off course, sometimes on purpose, sometimes purely by accident. I can tell you that even when I did plan out the course, it wasn’t a given that it would be smooth sailing. Usually, the storms took me by surprise and some of them threw me around wildly before tossing me up onto to shoreline and there I’d be, looking around, thinking “how the hell did I get here? This wasn’t part of the itinerary.” And “friends” would seem to come out from behind the rocks, everywhere, to say “Well, I could have told you that would happen.” or worse yet “I TOLD YOU THAT WOULD HAPPEN but you didn’t listen.”

But, sometimes, these events feel like some kind of cosmic occurrence, pushing you whether you like it or not.  And, it’s here, right here, where we decide our course.  Our response.  Do we push against the current or let the tide take us? This is exactly where I was and how I felt about my divorce.  I was in the middle of a storm, and I felt the wave pushing me, throwing me. Then, there would be periodic calm spells, time to collect my thoughts and almost enough calm for me to turn back but then the winds started blowing again and now, instead of being pushed, I was being pulled into my destiny. I don’t think, at that point, I could have stopped it.  But, you know what, I could have.  I could have turned back, avoided the storm. And then what?  Then I would have been left, back on the beach, left to live in the body of a person I wasn’t destined to be.  I know too many people who have denied their storm, too afraid to let the winds take them to their next destination.  I see them, now, as empty shells, trying to figure out why God abandoned them.  So they, in turn, abandon God.

I know that people who call themselves “Friends” try to convince you that you’re headed in the wrong direction but if your inner voice is strong you need to just stay the course, remain calm in the middle of your storm.  I know I didn’t want to end up an empty shell, feeling discarded on the beach.  I needed to continue to develop my inner pearl. So, I sailed, again and again, metaphorically speaking, because that’s what you do. It’s like the song sung by Garth Brooks called “The River” (1992).

The River
by
Garth Brooks

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide

There’s bound to be rough waters
And I know I’ll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all…yes

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry.

Today, I Am A Carpenter

IMG_0436
You build your life, one day at a time. I wish I’d known that.

Life is a funny thing, isn’t it? You don’t realize that you are building something until you look back on it. “Wow, if someone had told me that I was building my future, I would have taken school more seriously.” Oh, people tell you along the way, but it’s hard to hear some things when you’re busy pounding away.
When I was little, I was probably told that I was too little to cross the street by myself. I didn’t hear that. What I heard, instead, was my friends asking if I wanted to go to the candy store because they had a little money and wanted to treat us. I got the candy…and a spanking!
When I was in high school, I’m sure someone told me that studying was necessary to actually get A’s. What I heard was, “C’s are good average grades.” I was the perfect example of how telling someone that “you will need this someday” didn’t motivate me to take my job more seriously.
And so it went throughout my early life. There were, probably, messages all around me, I’m sure, but did I hear them?
I was busy trying to figure out how to not sweat while working on a project. I didn’t like to sweat. At the time, I was a carpenter building shanties, leaving behind little piles of rubble everywhere I went. I can see, now, that I was trying to figure out what kind of life I wanted to build. Practice is necessary for that. The shanties were my practice.
Now, I’ve reached a point in my life where I see the little piles. The shanties are long gone, having disappeared into the earth along with the shanties quickly erected, for practice, by others. Then I see, other structures that I erected; a little more sturdy but each remodeled often. I’m still a carpenter apprentice. I built my first life thinking it would fit my needs, only I outgrew it.
I didn’t realize that what I was building was a very important life. It wasn’t just my life that I was building. My younger brother and sister were watching everything that I built. While they wanted to build their own structures, I was modeling one way for them. I didn’t realize that. I maybe would have tried harder to do a good job!
When I started my career as a special education teacher, I was laying out the building plans for every child I taught in their early elementary years. I was pouring the foundation for each and everyone that I touched. In the eyes of the parents, I was probably seen as the general contractor. They looked to me to know what products (tools and skills) would stand the test of time. The students had no idea that I’d never poured a foundation before. Some of the parents knew, but still they trusted that I could do it. Now I look back on those days and thank God because it had to be God who guided me through those first years; God and the Physical Education teacher. It was that person who showed me where the school supply closet was and how the past special education teacher used books from there for her students. I’ll never forget the principal coming into my first classroom as I was attempting to draw a tree, freehand, for a bulletin board. I think his exact words were “Not much of an artist are you?” Again, luckily, over time my skills improved (and I found an overhead projector).
Then I became a mom. Now, my understanding of parenting came directly from Dr. Spock in those days. My own mother shared lessons that I didn’t want to use, while Dr. Spock seemed to be on every other young parent’s coffee table. Well, I read this book like it was my blueprint. I read, now, that this man was later seen as the reason for moral decline in youth and the rise of criminal behavior. However, I saw him as being totally bent on schedules and structure and I blame Dr. Spock for telling me to let my baby just cry if it appeared nothing was wrong. He said that it was good exercise. I followed every design detail. Today, I have apologized to my oldest daughter for letting her cry for hours on end. Luckily, she doesn’t remember. I must have replaced that rough material with something a little more polished by the time she was old enough to remember. Either that or the experience was a good one for her because, today, she is strong and powerful. Maybe it was good exercise.
As time went on, I was trusted with the task of being a general contractor (principal) for a whole construction crew (teachers). And what did I do? I had learned that it was important to have blueprints. It was important to have the right tools. It was important to go slow and follow a step by step process. It would be easier that way.
I told them that they were “Building A New Tomorrow”. I said “Today, you are a carpenter.”

Life Is A Metaphor

Life is a metaphor

A day to day interaction between things, events, and people; all presented to you as a living lesson. Pay attention and you will see that you are surrounded by messages right there just waiting for you to listen to them.

Years ago, I was drawn to metaphors to help me guide a school staff through changing times. The symbolism worked as a way to visualize the journey and organize the path. Over the past years, I have been reflecting on my life and found writing as a way to pour thoughts out and then edit. Was this what I really wanted to say? At one point, I looked  at the themes that I had used with my staff and felt that perhaps there was something there that could help me make sense, once again, of my changing times.   And so, I begin again to organize my own path through the use of metaphors.  Perhaps my journey will help others.  It has definitely helped me.

Please Enjoy

Today I Am A Carpenter

Go Ahead, Sail Off Into The Future

Is Your Life A Dream Catcher Or A Spider Web?

Life Is A Game

Today, I Am An Athlete