Watching from the Sidelines

         Now that the Olympics are over it’s back to my regularly scheduled life. I am always captivated by the Olympics, especially the summer games.  There is just something special about all these athletes from around the world getting together to compete and show off their sport to the whole world.  My only complaint is that most of the sports that I wanted to watch were on past my usual bedtime.  I don’t know why “prime time” is considered between 9 pm and midnight.  I think it should be more like 7 pm to 10 pm….but that’s just me… night owl I am not.  Thankfully I have discovered places to watch online, like through my Direct TV account so I can keep up with most of the action.  It sucked up large chunks of my day though.  Thank goodness it’s only once every 2 years (counting both summer and winter). 

             This year I found myself observing the parents of the athletes during and after the competitions.  Their faces were a roller coaster of emotions, fear, excitement, pride, devastation and joy.  It was their child’s journey, but they have been right there along with them for the ride.  Most of us parents spend a large amount of time taking our children to sports and other activities.  I can only begin to imagine the amount of time, money and sacrifice that the parents of the young Olympians have put into attending practices and events, buying shoes and outfits and helping them keep it all in perspective.  And for all the parents of the Olympians there are countless others out there who have put in the same time and effort for their children only to realize that it just wasn’t meant to be for them.   Hopefully they all find that the journey itself was worth the effort.

           I am rather looking forward to my own little parental journey.  After a three year break from organized sports, my son is now venturing into high school athletics and my calendar feels crowded already.   He is pursuing mountain biking and cross-country.  My only hope for him is that he has finally found his niche.  I mean really, this kid has tried a lot of sports: baseball, gymnastics, soccer, martial arts, lacrosse, volleyball, swimming, bmx, skateboarding, snowboarding (this one he likes and is pretty good at, but alas we only get to the snow about once a year), ice skating and a few others like basketball and tennis through PE at school.  I am particularly excited that he has decided to give cross-country a try.  I have been careful not to let him know this of course.  And I try to keep my own running advice to a minimum, which is hard for a blabber mouth like me.  I know I have to observe from the sidelines, pom-poms in hand, as he makes his way and finds his own motivation. 

 Keys in hand, I’m out the door now, time for the after-practice pick-up.

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Motivation – May the force be with you

            Several months ago I was coming back from a run on a rainy morning when a neighbor saw me and commented “Now that takes motivation!”  I replied something innocuous like “oh, it’s just water.”  It really didn’t seem like that big of deal to me, a light rain, not too cold.  I have certainly endured worse weather during the time I lived in Wyoming and Colorado.  The comment got my mind going, though, on the subject of motivation.  What motivates me?  What motivates others?  On a very basic level we as human beings are motivated to seek shelter and food, generally achieved by going to work everyday or if you are so inclined, by mugging for cameras in the hope that celebrity alone will carry you through life.  There is, I guess, a certain kind of motivation that drives some people to just want to be a celebrity.  This is different of course from people who achieve a celebrity status because they have excelled at their craft.  One can see though that motivation is a complex set of factors that varies from person to person.  Some are motivated to achieve excellence in sports, others writing, acting, singing, painting, academics or a myriad of other pursuits.  Being motivated to simply be a good person or do good deeds is an admirable characteristic as well. 

             From my perspective motivation is like a constantly shifting energy force, a buzz in my head, a tug at my heart, a gurgling in my gut.  In my younger days I was motivated to exercise so I could look good in cute clothes and to work hard to move up, get promoted, earn more money and a bigger title.  At some point I became motivated to run races not just for fun, but to improve my time and maybe even place.  Not surprisingly, my motivational force shifted when I had a child, as if pregnancy itself changes your center of gravity.  Suddenly, keeping your child well and safe takes top priority.  Which is not to say that I still didn’t want to fit into my cute clothes or make money, it’s just not what was driving my highest motivational forces.  Life changes everything, right.

             When my now 14 year old son was just barely two, my husband passed away from cancer.  Having my son is what pulled me through.  My motivation to get out of bed and keep going everyday was to care for him and keep his world as normal as possible.  I changed careers because doing what you love in life seemed more important than just bringing home a paycheck.  Exercise became more a way to help me keep my mental health intact than to achieve anything.  Time goes on and I have since remarried and had another child, now 3 2/3, as she will readily tell you.  Being over 45 and having a toddler, my biggest motivation these days is staying healthy so I will be around to see my children have children!  I am also motivated to do more writing, something I have always enjoyed but never allowed myself time to pursue.  Ok, I’ll come right out and say it, I am motivated to get something published!  Again, life is tenuous, do something that makes you smile.  And when you feel that motivational energy force grab hold of it and let it pull you forward, you never know how far it will take you.

            One last note on children being a motivational force…my son and I are going to be going on an adventure in a few months, climbing Mt Whitney with some good friends.  At14,505 feet it is the highest peak in the contiguous United States and can be climbed without the use of mountaineering equipment.  More about this adventure in future blogs, but I will admit that I am very motivated right now to get myself  in good condition not only to accomplish  this goal but to not get shown up (at least not too much) by a 14 year old on our climb!

Why not me?

            Inspiration is often found in the most unexpected places.  Last night at a small radio station sponsored concert with Gavin DeGraw, a singer whom I was vaguely familiar with, a phrase that he said got stuck in my head.  “Why not me?”  Retelling his story of how he was inspired by this phrase would never come across as entertaining as his was, but suffice to say at the time it got him to adopt the mind set of “Hey, if others can do it (in his case, make it big in the music industry) why not me?”   How simple, yet how profound these three little words can be.  That is not to say that talent, hard work, and dedication are not also part of the equation in accomplishing goals, but a positive mindset can get you over the hurdles.  So we may not all become rich and famous like DeGraw but when facing a roadblock or some lack of confidence it is a handy phrase to keep in your back pocket.

             My first, “Why not me?” moment was back in high school when it came to my attention that there was an escape route from the little Wyoming town where I grew up.  If other kids could go to out-of-state college, I thought, “Why not me?” Now part of selling this plan to my parents entailed picking a major that I was sure could not be offered at the University in the town where I lived, thus a devotion to the fashion industry was born.  I did love the fashion industry, but I have often wondered since then if a driving force behind choosing a major in Textiles and Clothing was the prospect of getting out of town.  But choosing to get out on my own right after high school set me on the path that has led me to where I am today.

             Shortly after getting away to college my second “Why not me?” moment occurred when I discovered running and the thought of entering a race crossed my mind.  Yeah, me, the so far most unathletic kid of the family.  I pushed myself though.  If other people could run 10k’s then,“Why not me?”  Over the next 20 years I ran many 5k’s, 10k’s, a couple ½ marathons and marathons and while I never made it to the Olympics, or anything close, I gained a lot of self-confidence and fortitude that has carried me through many a tough times.

             At the age of 43, right after getting married for the second time, my husband and I discussed having a child.  The odds weren’t exactly on our side and there were naysayers in the wings, but I had always wanted a second child and I thought other women were having babies in their forties, at least according to the news media, so “Why not me?”  That said, there were a few “What the h-e-double chopsticks was I thinking” moments during my soon thereafter pregnancy.  They are but a memory now as that healthy little bundle of joy has got our hearts wrapped around her pudgy, little fingers. 

             Granted, it is harder to grab those “Why not me?” moments as we get older and the naïveté of youth is worn thin by the harsh realities of life, but I am still looking to the horizon waiting to grasp that next big bubble that floats my way.  Who knows, if Stephenie Myers can have a dream about vampires and turn it into a bestselling book series and movie deal, then, ”Why not me?” ….minus the vampires, of course, I’m pretty sure that’s yesterday’s story. 

             And, if you haven’t had any “Why not me?” moments yet, then, “you better get on it!”

 

the athletic chick hatches

Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron. How can one be both wimpy and athletic? I blame it on genetics. I was born a wimpy girl, all skinny and gangly, not high on the coordination scale either. I never made it up the rope in P.E., never could do more than one pull up and was never in the top 10 for dodge ball team selection. When I was about 9 my mom signed my younger sister and I up for gymnastics. Or, let’s put it this way, she signed my younger sister, who actually showed some athletic promise, up for gymnastics and I was signed up so that she wouldn’t have to go by herself. It was an embarrassing debacle from the beginning. While I did manage to master somersaults and a headstand, I never could learn to do even a basic cartwheel. (this, of course, would also rule out any chance of a bid at cheerleading later on) After several months of torture and a bad fall off the uneven parallel bars I gave it up. Going out for a sport in middle school or high school? Far too intimidating for a wimpy girl like me. Once in my twenties I gave in to some peer pressure and tried softball. Again, not pretty. Hitting the ball not only takes coordination, but also a certain amount of strength, something I was sadly lacking. Catching the ball didn’t go to well either, and trying to catch a ball and hold a beer at the same time, not a chance.
Redemption, of a sort, did come while I was in college. Determined to not become a victim of the “freshman 10”, I began exercising and discovered that not only could I run I actually enjoyed running. Back at home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and buoyed by my new found sport, I signed up for my first 10K run. Now I guess I should regress a little and let you know that I grew up in Wyoming and that this was the early 1980’s when the running craze was just getting going. So, finding a 10K to run meant driving for 2 or 3 hours to Colorado, a much more hip state. This particular race was a trail run, not particularly scenic, just dry brush and pasture fences. Things were going pretty well, not much competition around me, when I looked around and noticed a group of runners in the distance, but parallel to me on the other side of a fence. Lightbulb! I had taken a wrong turn. Now I had to backtrack and get on the right side of the fence. The good news was that even with my wrong turn I wasn’t the last finisher. That was motivation enough for me to sign up for another race. And, motivation to shake my wimpy girl image…an ongoing challenge it turns out.