Archive for September, 2009

A Mind of His Own

With life just begun, my sleeping new son
Has eyes that roll back in his head
They flutter and dart, he slows down his heart
And pictures a world past his bed
Its hard to believe
As I watch you breathe
Your mind drifts and weaves

– When He Dreams by the Barenaked Ladies

The first time I heard this song, I was running through Kinder Park pushing my sleeping five month old son in his stroller.  Maybe it was the hormones still coursing through my body, but it touched me that day.  Suddenly, I183 realized that this child, who I knew so well, already had a mind of his own – a part of himself that he didn’t have to share with me.  And I wanted to know – what did he dream about?

As I ran, I thought about the times I had asked my other children about their dreams. My oldest son insists he doesn’t dream and my daughter has always held tight to her thoughts and dreams.   The times she does share feel like rare gifts that I should treasure because it isn’t guaranteed to happen again.

Zane is different.  At three, he is my most verbal child.  He is always talking – to me, to his dad, to his siblings, and even his matchbox cars.  He never stops.  For this I am grateful.  It allows me to see into that place he doesn’t have to share.

When he wakes in the morning his dreams tumble freely from his little mouth.  Sometimes, because he thinks his dream was real, he wakes up and runs to the window, lifting the shade and sighing in disappointment, “I thought the train would still be there.”  Or he searches his covers for a treasure he must have been playing with in his dreams.

On other mornings, he will wake up talking about something like dinosaurs or panda bears or colors that floated through his mind.  He hasn’t developed the filter that will hide his thoughts and dreams from me in the future.

With the age difference in my children, I have been given a special insight.  I know what will happen as he gets older.  I know that he will want to establish his own identity and to do that, he will withhold parts of himself.  I have been able to see this happen with my older children without warning.  With the knowledge comes an appreciation I didn’t have the first time around.

When they were newborns, I held their naked little bodies and looked at every inch.  I would sit in the rocking chair feeding them, taking in the curve of their ears, the shape of their fingers, the lines on their palms and tiny feet.  When they were newborns, I knew everything about them.  I don’t know when this changed, I suppose it was gradual. There is a part of me that hopes I caused it to happen and can avoid the same mistake this time.

Because Zane is the last of our babies, I find myself holding on to him tighter – trying to keep him from growing too fast.  To his chagrin, I still refer to him as my baby.  But, I know he is changing and growing.  He reminds me every day with a very clear, “I am a big boy.”  And, I have noticed, there are more mornings these days when I am left to wonder, what does he dream about?

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Be Inspired

I seek inspiration – in my writing, racing, parenting and in my relationship with God.  I look for it within myself, in friends and family and in people I may never meet.  It was not something I was consciously hunting for before.  If someone or something inspired me, that was great, but I didn’t expect to find it.  But, over the past year, as I have built a freelance writing career, I have made a choice to be inspired.  And I am.  Everyday, in a hundred ways, I am inspired.

I have found inspiration in a childhood friend.  He and his wife have chronicled their struggles over the past two months.  Two months that took him from living an average American life to being a cancer victim – bald, lying in a hospital bed, fighting an unexplained fever, losing weight by the minute because he can’t keep food down, not being able to spend the days with his children.  They have shared all of their pain and suffering, but most importantly they have shared their faith in God.  Through it all they never lost sight of their belief that God would take care of them.  This undying faith has inspired me.

Being a parent is my favorite role in life, but parenting isn’t always easy.  And to top it off, it is one of the most difficult areas to find inspiration.  Parenting is personal and so much of it takes place at home.  This week though, it was on the evening news and across the internet for everyone to see.  This week, Emily Monforto (see video) and her father were all over the internet and television.  Emily’s father, a Phillies season ticket holder, caught his first foul ball.  In his excitement, he presented the ball to Emily who turned around and proudly threw it back onto the field.  This was all caught on tape.  The best part of the tape though, was not the look of surprise on her father’s face but the hug he gave her afterwards.  That hug was a rare gift of inspiration for parents worldwide.

Epic Bill Bradley

Epic Bill Bradley

Athletically, I find inspiration in so many people.  Bill Bradley who is in England this weekend swimming across the English Channel after having biked across America and completing the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley this summer, has been inspiring me for months.  The actor/comedian Eddie Izzard, who is not built to be a marathoner, just completed a 1000-mile run through England to raise money for Sport Relief.  He ran 42 marathons in 53 days and raised £200,000 along the way.

And as though to prove my point, I woke up this morning to an inspiring story about Capt. Ivan Castro in my local paper. Though wounded and ultimately left blind when two 82-mm mortar rounds exploded near him in Iraq, Capt. Castro has since climbed the 14,270-foot Gray’s Peak in Colorado, run seven marathons, a 50-mile race and a triathlon.

As an athlete, I look for these stories everyday.  And when I am at mile 22 of the marathon and my legs just don’t want to go another step, I use them to propel myself toward that finish line, knowing that it can be done.

Inspiration is all around us.  Maybe it’s the way our next door neighbor encourages her teenager to shovel the driveways for our elderly neighbors.  Maybe it is your friend who shows up to school with the bandana hiding her bald head, still smiling at her beautiful daughter though you know how sick she is feeling.  Maybe it is the veteran you see on your local running trail running with his new prosthetic leg.   Whatever it is, it is out there.  Look around you. Search it out.  Be inspired.

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Even on the best of days a bookstore is a dangerous place for me.  But on a day such as today, when I am supposed to be working, it is even more so.  Surrounded by so many books, I find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand.

woman with coffeeLeaving my husband and children to fend for themselves, I took this Labor Day morning off of mommy duties and headed to the local bookstore with my laptop in tow.   Since school has started and my older children are no longer around to entertain my preschooler, I have found writing to be nearly impossible.  Each of my last four articles has been written in my car, during my daughter’s soccer practice.  This was not the romantic idea I had of writing before I decided upon this career path.  I had pictured afternoons in a sun- filled room, coffee at hand, pouring my words out onto my computer screen.

To be successful, I know I need more than a couple of hours each week alone in my car.  I need time to look inside and find the story.  This morning I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and head to the bookstore, find a table and write, undisturbed.  But the books call my name.  I didn’t even make it to this table before stopping to browse the aisles, gathering books that will grace my bedside table until I finally get someone to add yet more bookshelves to our house.

Before leaving the house, I realized I would have to overcome the temptation of the books, but there is another distraction I had not considered.  The people around me peak my interest.  Their conversations and their books stacked on the table beside them send my mind racing in too many directions to count.

As though sent by the devil to distract me, the guy at the table beside mine has a stack of books about my favorite non-writing activity – running.  Based on the titles, I know he is a beginning runner.  How do I ignore this opportunity to speak with someone who is still so excited about the prospects of the sport that I love?  Shouldn’t I tell him that running is my specialty?  Aren’t there words of wisdom I should share?

No, I should be writing.  I should be thinking about my readers and what they might find interesting this week.  Maybe I should write something about the power of rest.  Something in celebration of Labor Day.  But I know my readers and they don’t rest.   They run, bike, swim, read, write and parent.  They are active.  They would understand this restlessness I am feeling and know that it is for them that I stop for a minute to learn that the beginning runner started running with his wife six months ago and they are now training for their first marathon.  I have learned that his wife is beginning to feel a pain in her right knee and already considering changing sports.  Now, I am sure it is my duty to keep her in the sport.  The writing must wait a moment as I guide her to a great orthopedic surgeon who is also a runner and a good running store that will analyze her gait.  I knew this running knowledge would come in handy one day.

If my running club is any sign of the future of our sport and I am not sure that it is, then we need these two to stay true to running.  The last race I ran was full of seasoned runners, runners who are slowing down and even stopping to smell the roses and appreciate the course for the beauty rather than the speed.    A new runner or two might add to the competition in our local races but more importantly may help guarantee a future for our historic running club.

So, once again a morning meant for work, has been wasted, not because of the dogs barking at the front window or the preschooler pulling on my leg but because of the world at large.  But maybe that’s my story.  Maybe I don’t need that quiet, sun-filled room to find the words.  Maybe the words don’t have to come from inside.  Sometimes, instead of the words spilling out of me, maybe the world around me is what spills onto my page.  This again is not what I dreamed of when I chose to become a writer.  Instead, it is an unexpected perk to what has turned out to be an already perk laden career path.

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Writing My Life

It took ten years of running road races, marathons and even an ultra marathon before I would call myself a runner but less than a month of writing before I called myself a writer.  Why?  What is the difference between the two?

For the first decade of running, running itself did not define me.  I was a person who sometimes ran.  I enjoyed it most of the time but if I couldn’t run for a week I would have survived and no one in my life would have noticed a difference.  Through experience and knowledge I fell in love with the sport and became a runner.  And therein lies the key to my question.  I became a runner.

I didn’t have to become a writer.  I was born a writer.  My mother laughs as I describe things that happened in our lives when I was two and three years old.  She is convinced I couldn’t actually remember what our house looked like, the belt with the metal holes or her fights with my father.  But I know that I soaked everything in and twirled the images around in my head looking for the good in the world around me.

I have always loved words.  Whether they were strung together to make a phrase, a sentence or a whole story I consumed them.  My love of words started before I could read.  I would sit quietly beside my mother as shegirl readingspoke with friends and listen to their words.  Even as a young child I judged people by the words they spoke.  I knew that the way they spoke meant as much as what they actually said.

I was a writer even then, gathering bits from my everyday life in order to create my own world.  A place where I could be safe and happy.  I would lie in my bed and think about the people I saw each day, dumping the ones I didn’t like into little bins in my mind and closing the lids tight. Expanding on the people I did like.  Creating stories of the lives they went home to and putting myself into their homes as their children.  In my mind, their houses were always bigger and cleaner.  There were no bugs and no angry parents.  I would sleep at night with visions of a safe and happy home.

Creating this world became easier when I discovered books.  Danny and the Dinosaur sat on an end table at the pediatrician’s office and it was the only book that was always available to me as a child.  I was not brought up in a family of readers and though books were available at school, I was never guaranteed an opportunity to read.  So, Danny and the Dinosaur was my book, the one I could count on.  Sid Hoff created a story I could build on.  In my stories Danny would return again and again to the museum.  Sometimes the dinosaur would come back to life.  Sometimes the suits of armor would battle. And sometimes Danny would become a part of the dinosaur’s world and travel back in time.

I seldom wrote my stories down, I didn’t need to.  They rolled through my mind and became a part of my inner bookshelf.  As I grew, I read more and more and created more and more stories.  I built on Little Women and the stories I read of Amelia Earhart.  Eventually, I started creating my own.  Stories of adventure and exploration but also stories of the life I would lead once I grew up.

These stories became goals and eventually guided me to college.  This was no small feat for a girl who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with parents who didn’t see the value of education.  But the books I read and the stories I created in my head gave me hope.

In high school I toyed with the idea of being a writer.  I began to write my stories down and could tell I was improving, but the goal of leaving my childhood town won out. With no one to guide me I decided the only way to make a living and escape our trailer park was to major in business and leave the dreams of writing behind.

The stories still swirled through my head but I didn’t put them on paper.  I still read and got lost in books but I didn’t look at the words in search of creating better stories for myself.  I enjoyed the stories for what they were – portals into other worlds.

Over the years since I gave up writing, I have been told that I tell a good story.  That I have a way of bringing people into a scene they never witnessed.  I didn’t consider this a form of writing but now I see that it was.  Now I understand that the stories have been there the whole time waiting for me to let them out and when I refused to put them on paper they spilled out into my conversation.

Today, though I do put the stories on paper and share them on my blog or in magazines, I still find them spilling out when I am with friends and family and I try to remember to save them.  I try to put more of them on paper and look at the lessons learned through the events of my life.  Today, I look at all of these stories, starting with Danny and the Dinosaur and see that making the decision to become a writer was not a decision at all but a progression that had to happen.  Calling myself a writer was easy for me, not because I write often or well but because I am a writer and have always been.

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