Before we left the house I decided that we may well have our very best ski race day yet. After leaving in the dark of the morning for the ski hill with sleepy eyes and peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches for breakfast, we discovered that it had warmed up to -10 F. The sun began to creep out from under the blanket of the Cook Inlet fog and the energy of ski team members busily preparing for the race began to help us shift gears from quiet to excitement.
The winter air was calm and crisp. The snow was just right. The crowd was small. The spirits were high. The race course was inviting. It was an unusually uncomplicated race day. Every time someone asked me, “How are you?” I responded with a sincere, “Great! We’re going to have our best race day ever!” And I really believed it. What a remarkable power our attitude has over our energy level.
And we did. Yes, it was -10F most of the day and we took a lot of breaks inside. Our face masks became frozen from the heat of our breath. The parts of our faces that were exposed became white with little icicles. Hoarfrost clung onto everything in sight – decorating the trees and chairlift with the most beautiful white, thick frost that’s unique to the Anchorage region. The chairlift seats were frozen pillows for the first half of the day. Our bums were as numb as our noses.
Yet, the course was a rush to run! The spirits were high. Volunteers covered the race operation from top to bottom – honorably standing in the -10 F to judge the gates and keep watch for safety. The skiers, from ages 5 to 15, were numbered and in cheery form. Even our weakest beginner skiers were champions on this day. I was grateful to have surrendered to the initial negative voice I woke with and to have stayed true to our commitment to our home team. Our children, too, were remarkably excited about this day.
Moments that made this our best race day were plentiful. As a coach, I was so proud of the young kiddos who braved the cold to ski! In six ski lessons these kindergartners transformed themselves from “never-evers” to ski racers! This seems like a phenomenal feat when we began with kids whose legs were like spaghetti on the bunny hill for three weeks. As a team member, I was so impressed – and just down-right touched, by the true spirit of community our volunteer team of coaches displayed as they “took their positions” and made this day happen. Our team captain, an American soldier, was out on the course at 7AM setting up the dark cold! It’s hard to say what drove us most: the military training, our shared passion for skiing, or our collaborative love for our family of kids. But everybody, be it a high ranking officer, a doctor, an FBI agent, an airborne infantry soldier, a mom, or even a grandma, was on the ski hill in great form. I felt truly privileged to be a humble part of this team.
Finally, as a Mom, I was brought to tears as I cheered on our 10-year-old at the finish line and saw her complete her very best time. She broke into the competitive racing category – and achieved her goal – to be in the 30’s. As her friends were calling out to her name, elation took over and the tears poured out. This moment made every bit of “endurance training” worth it. Ninety-minutes later when our daughter raced, she improved her time more, and exuberance we haven’t known for a long time on the hill, took over the rest of the day. Our son and youngest daughter, along with many other team mates also had their best ski times on the hill and were equally thrilled with their runs, which I also gleefully cheered them on for! This was indeed, our personal best ski race day – a blue ribbon day! (“The blue ribbon is a term used to describe or symbolize something of high quality.”)
In the end, our oldest won her first YSL medal – third place. She was thrilled with this – because it was her first in the very competitive league in three years. Our youngest also placed third in her age group (although she’s less invested in the winning than her older sister). Finally, our son did not place because in his group there are some of the very fastest skiers, but he did make his personal best time. In his tears, he boldly asked the team coach why he didn’t win when others with a slower time did. And, he learned about the law of averages in age groups – and the reality of what he’s up against. To his joy, our son did win a huge 2nd place trophy the next day for his fast derby car – and his sisters didn’t. Ultimately all of us won BIG!
My attitude is like the weather – negative. Right now it’s -17 with the wind chill (maybe more) on the ski hill and we still have to show up – in two hours, for the ski races today. My body feels resistant and angry about this situation.
Of course we don’t control the weather, just our response to it. And my toleration of this on-going negative weather has turned into blunt anger. These bitterly cold temperatures have been visiting us off and on since November and have essentially stolen many great ski and skating days because it’s been painfully cold outside.
Today I want to throw in the white towel. I want to go back to bed and let the kids sleep in. I want to give myself permission to just skip this race day – and take a day off. I want to declare today a pajama day and play board games with the kids. I am physically tired from limited sleep and a hectic pace. I know that the same is mostly true for the kids after a feel week of school demands on them, too. My husband, the man who manages all the gear packing, is out of town today, which doubles my work load for getting our family out for a day of skiing – with every piece of winter clothing we own along with snacks. The sum is a costly day that outweighs the benefits. Or does it?
Folks would not blame me/us if we did not show up. Undoubtedly others will choose not to attend the race today. The kids even said last night that they don’t want to ski today. After two previous ski race seasons, the kids aren’t even excited about the race – they know that the Alyeska kids have an overwhelming advantage over us on the course and steel, I mean earn, most of the medals. As a Mom, a member of our team and as a ski coach, this is where the rubber meets the road. (“Idiom Definition for ‘Where the rubber meets the road: Where the rubber meets the road is the most important point for something, the moment of truth. An athlete can train all day, but the race is where the rubber meets the road and they’ll know how good they really are.”)
How committed are we to the ski team in general, to our team mates we’re on and to the players we coach? How committed are we to our home team, to own well being? At one point do we just hang on and when do we let go?
Today is an endurance test. It reminds me of being in labor with my third child. We had committed to a natural, drug-free birth. Yet as the contractions grew tighter, the concept of numbing the pain nearly overtook my prepared commitment to give our child the best start in life – a drug-free birth. It was very hard at certain moments, but in the end, we delivered a beautiful baby girl, naturally. It was exhilarating and one of the three most extraordinary moments of my life. (Tears come into my eyes as I write and my body remembers the overwhelming rush of joy and endorphins in those delivering moments.) I am deeply grateful I stayed true to my commitment (and that we had a medically safe delivery that allowed this opportunity.)
So here we go. Today I begin with you, God. I believe if it’s your will for us to race, we will do so safely. I believe that today is an opportunity to model endurance to my home team – our three children, ages 7, 8, and 10. It’s my prayer that we stay safe today – and that our precious children learn the value of following through on a pledge with inner strength and a willing attitude. It’s also my prayer that my mind set thaw out. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a lot of fun with teammates, bring home the medals (if the competition stays home, we have an advantage)…we might end up having the best race day ever!
2 Samuel 10:12 “Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”
Today as I was kissing our 1st grader goodbye at the bus stop, I encouragingly said to her, “ALL you have to do to earn a smiley face (a.k.a. achieve success) at school is to sit quietly and complete your work. Take care of yourself first – before you help others. If you need help, ask your teacher.”
As I heard these “wise words” come out of my mouth for my daughter, I knew immediately that they were also for me. While we’d like to believe our children do what we say, and although at times they do, it is what we do – that they really do.
The stress I have in my life is self-inflicted – much like that of my daughter’s in school. How can she at the young age of 7, be wired to help others before she helps herself, as I do? How can she be putting her need to do her school work second? It’s ironic and humbling (and maybe a tad alarming, too) to see the parallels.
As we move into the fourth week of January, I am suddenly stressed by the various calls to give my time in service. Volunteering is beginning to feel like work – too much work, that is smothering my joy. I do this to myself with my great intentions. The truth is I receive great joy in saying “Yes I can” and in showing up for others. Doing so is in alignment with my value system – to be a Matthew 5:16 kind of person, to use my life to be a light for others, and to be of service with the gifts God has given me. And I get myself in trouble when I don’t take care of myself first. It seems like it all happens so fast – and always at the same time.
Inspired to be the best role model I can for our children, I pray that I am aligned with Proverbs 31. I pray for space to do my “school work” and to clarify what I’m available for – before I say yes to others. It is a great privilege to be of service, but charity must begin at home first. I must put my own oxygen mask on first. Case in point, I’ve been averaging over 10 hours a week of volunteer time, yet seem to have no time for my hobbies or crafts at home.
It’s time I do as I say!
“He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” –John 15:5
Today is Friday. We start slowly in the deep dark Alaskan winter morning. We have received about five more inches of fresh snow. It’s warmed up – it’s close to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
We dress for the day knowing that as a family, we’ll be skiing after school. So we put an extra layer on. I am planning on a Yoga class which is before a cross-country ski date with my husband and friends, and that is before our downhill skiing coach clinic with our friends and family tonight. It’s a perfect Patagonia (clothes) day! I put on my “Patagucci” (Patagonia-made clothes) first. Yes, it’s a true visions day in Alaska (who needs a clean house?)!
After our family breakfast devotion around our battered, antique apple-wood, kitchen table we pile on all our layers of ski clothes – for getting to school. With extra hot crepes in our hands that my awesome husband lovingly made, we tread through the fresh powdery snow, in the dark, to the bus stop. The kids and I cling to the side of the road because in the dark, we are hardly visible to cars driving by us (even though there are reflectors on the kid’s backpacks). The Christmas lights reflect the most light on the street.
Holding my 7-year-old’s sweet hand and I ask her, “have I told you how much I love you today?” She says, “no.” Then I tell her, “I love you and I am grateful God brought you to us, sweet daughter.” She smiles and I feel those heart-strings pull us closer in the most precious way that makes time feel like it’s standing still. The mindful inspiration is to send her off to school with deep love, especially after having had to chase them into their clothes this morning (well our two youngest – our oldest was quick to point out that she did not need reminding this morning to be on time). Then my youngest said her hands were cold and she must put them in her pockets. It is after all, snowing and 8 degrees or so outside!
At the bus stop, the moon is shining brightly over us. The plowed snow bank is almost three feet high. The kids begin to dig into the snow and climb on top of it as we wait for the bus. There are diamonds floating in the sky, or so it seems, as light from passing cars is reflected onto the falling snow. I look at all of this, and am amazed at how normal this unusual experience has quickly become. I am thankful the children are happily going to a school which supports them well, and gives them plenty of opportunity to exercise on these cold days. I am thankful my husband and I have some time to claim our own and to cross country ski together.
The sunrise is officially at 10AM this morning. Yet, as the kids climb into their snow-covered, yellow school bus at 8:42AM, I notice that light is slowly creeping into our lives once again. As I write now it’s 9:34AM and there’s a gorgeous shade of powder blue hue blanketing everything. From my perfect writer’s spot, I look onto Bear Mountain to see shadows of pale pink creep up from behind. I am so very excited I get to play outside with my friends and family – in fresh snow!
My best days are “Patagucci” days of adventure. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to fully enjoy this exquisite land. I am equally filled with gratitude for our children’s joy in the adventure of so many new things. This Alaskan school morning in record-breaking amounts of snow is beautiful beyond belief. Thank you God for this glimpse of heaven.
Like many, I am beginning the year optimistic. There is nothing like a clean slate of a calendar, and a break from the normal routine, to make me feel hopeful that all, or at least, more things are possible.
Yesterday I honored my 15-year New Year’s tradition of reviewing the past year’s journals at my favorite tea shop. For the third year in a row it was an amazing to see a stack of seven journals, sitting like flat rocks on the Homer beach, delicately balancing upon one another and representing hours of tea time with God. At first it was an effort to open and read my journals. On the surface, I can see the glass half-full at times and become vulnerable to the thief of joy called doubt.
However, in 2011 I made the choice to seek something for which I was grateful during my most trying moments and write about it. The outcomes are journals that largely reflect the joy and praise of the presence of our life. Reading them reminded me how enriched my life and – our family’s life, truly are! What surprised me most in my writing was to vividly SEE how God actively was providing and answering prayers! What an energizing gift this reflective time turned out to be.
While at a wonderful New Year’s Yoga class, the comment that lingered in my thoughts was “flexibility is space – we must have space to be flexible.” With the desire for increased physiological flexibility, I also yearn to be more supple in my relationships. I’ve spent too much of my life’s energies holding on, being safe, and thereby also limiting the space for His possibilities in my life. As we begin 2012, it is my intent to mindfully choose to trust more open space in my life for increased elasticity.
|“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle|
Today my primary goal has been to get our life’s activities and dates onto the calendar – and to order a portable calendar. We took this one step further and sat down with the kids and asked them, what do you want to fit into our life? More swimming? More play dates? They said, yes, yes, yes! So did we!
After spending almost an hour searching for just the right planner on-line, I decided that this website offers the most helpful product for my values as a Christian parent with a home educator’s heart: www.wellplannedday.com. I’m including this site here for you because after a year of reading their magazine called “Home Educating Family”, I’ve become a fan of their products. I’m so thankful to the sweet friend who introduced me to this publication. Maybe you will be blessed by it, too – or pass it onto someone else who could be.
Matthew 19:26 “With God All Things Are Possible.” Begin well – believe in the possibilities of 2012 and hold the space for them!