Wednesday, December 2, 2015

You can chose to be thankful

Last week was Thanksgiving.  I am not sure how many people paused to be thankful and how many people stuffed their bellies with way more food than they needed.  Many people spent the day traveling to relative's homes -- sometimes more than one home.  My day was supposed to be spent traveling to two different homes and seeing much family.  But, as Wednesday afternoon closed in, I began to think it was not going to happen.  We notified the families that we might not be attending but before we went to bed my middle child had a fever of 101.5 and my youngest had been diagnosed with an ear infection. :(  We were staying home.  My husband went out and purchased a small turkey and fixings so we could still have the traditional pant-popping meal at home.

Thursday morning was lazy.  It was kind of nice to not have to worry about everyone getting up, dressed and ready for that first trek to grandma's house.  By this time the middle one was a lump on the couch and the other two, while lower fevers, were not moving much.  My husband and I took time to enjoy the beautiful weather and get a couple things done that we did not want to take time from healthy kids to do.  The turkey in the oven, my husband cleaned the garage while I cleaned out a portion of the school room so we could move a chair out of that room (to make room for other things which would in turn make room for the tree).   The kids were watching movies and playing video games in between my temperature checks and prodding to drink more fluids.

The turkey dinner was delicious.  It was not my mom's but it was good.  I missed seeing some extended family but instead of sitting there feeling sorry for all of us for being stuck in a home ill, I chose to be thankful.  Thankful for the 3 children I am blessed with.  Thankful that we have medicines to bring down fevers that reach 102 by the end of the turkey dinner.  Thankful for medicines that help the ear pain for the child who has had so many ear infections that he can tell me it is infected.  Thankful that I am able to own my own otoscope to check to see that it is really infected before we trek to the doctor's office for a false alarm.  Thankful for a husband who is willing to shop the night before Thanksgiving for last minute meal supplies.  Thankful that we have a meal to eat.  Thankful that we have a roof over our heads.  The list goes on... I am sure that you get the picture.

I could have chosen to be sorry for our situation.  I could have sat there and felt bad for what I perceived as things we did not have, but instead I counted all my blessings and they were MANY!  I chose to fill the house with love.  I chose to hug my little sick children and tell them how thankful I was for them.  It felt more like Thanksgiving than just about any other year because I sat back and reflected on what I have and what I should be thankful for rather than just filling my stomach to the point of bursting and reliving days gone by with extended family...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Facing Fears and Hearing God

There are two different types of fears: rational and irrational.  Therapists will tell you that in some cases in order to lessen the fear or conquer the fear or make it have less of a hold on your life that you have face your fear.  Everyone has something they fear.  What strikes sheer horror in one person may make someone else smile.  That is the tricky part of irrational fears not only do they not make sense but you may not have support from others with your fear.  Here is an example: my sister does not like spiders... like REALLY does not like spiders.  If she sees one and does not kill it she wonders where it has gone and if it will be crawling across her in the middle of the night.  On the other hand, I have picked some spiders up and moved them by hand to outside my home.  Big spiders or "hoppy" spiders, well I do need to squish those...  but only those large tarantulas strike terror in me at the thought of them leaving their cages in pet stores.

For me, I have fears that cause me to tremble.  And much like my peace with spiders while others fear them, I fear heights -- my knees tremble, my pulse races and my heart pounds so hard I think I can see my shirt move with every beat.   I feel that way when I am only one story high!  You can only imagine the terror I feel when I am 200+ in the air.  This is what makes it to amazing that I faced this fear this year.  I not only faced it once but 3 times.  I am not by any means over it and I would not by any means say that I have lessoned it by large amounts.  I am still like a vampire running from day light when I have to go high up -- wanting to run as far away as I can from the heights as I can.

This summer my family went to Cedar Point many times.  My fear of heights makes going there a little challenging at times.  I look at some of these roller coasters and I think to myself how they look like so much fun but I look at that first hill -- that mountain holding people up so high with so little protection around them and I cringe.  I remember being on the Magnum as a teen and crying at the top of the first hill...  well I was not even at the top, it took so long to get there I started crying half way up!  I can handle corkscrew and blue streak... I think many people would call them "baby coasters".  They only send mild palpitations and I have more fun on them than terror.  This is why I know if I could just get over that first hill I would probably enjoy others.  I stand at the bottom of them looking up just wishing I had enough in me to get on and enjoy it.  Iron Dragon is not a huge coaster, but the swinging of the cars... oh the swinging -- I feel like an eagle has picked me up and is taking me to her nest.  I am not fond of that feeling but I can tolerate it for those that want to ride it with me.

There are two coasters that made me want to give them a try.  Both of them are floorless.  Now, this is a big deal -- a REALLY big deal.  You see the first thing I do when going down a big hill is brace my feet on the floor... HARD!  Riding a coaster that is high AND has no floor... well that is a recipe for terror unlike any other.  It is with this in mind that I tell you that not only rode but also enjoy the Gatekeeper.  It is one of my new favorite rides.  No, I do not think it will be easy for me to just jump on it each time I go but after having ridden it twice now (once in the day and once at night) I can say that I know I can do it and if someone were to want to ride it with me I could do it.  I am certainly not ready for the front car and I may never be but I know I can do this.

All summer I have looked up at the Raptor and thought that I would like to give it a try.  Each time I walked up to the entry I would look up and feel that intense pounding in my chest.  I would use a 20+ minute wait as an excuse not to ride.  But on our last trip this year the line was only about 10 minutes and I knew it was now or not at all this year.  I went up and each step forward put another level of intensity to the pounding in my chest.  My hands began to sweat and thoughts of turning back continued.  Since my husband can't ride due to motion sickness and my kids are too afraid to ride with me I felt so alone in line.  With no one to talk with my mind focuses only on the impending trip up followed by the steep drop down.  To take my mind off of it I try to listen in to the conversation of the kids in front of me.  I watch the little questions go by on the screens that I pass...  Anything to stop thinking about what I am going to be doing in a few short minutes.  I start to climb the stairs that lead to the boarding platform.  The pounding is so intense now that I think I will just walk by the seat when they say I can board and not ride after all.  I go through the turnstile and look at the options for seating.  NOT the front seat... Ah if I ride in the very last seat I can get on the next car and get this over with.

Still uncertain if I am just going to walk through or if I am going to sit on the seat the gate swings open.  The two people in front of me are an older couple.  In line I had been praying that God keep me safe and that I would be able to do this to show the kids that I can face my fears (like I ask them to do).  I finally sit in the seat next to the woman and lean my head back.  She asks me if I am ok.  I tell her "Yeah, I am just scared."  She smiles warmly and says "You'll be ok, I will pray for you."  Did I just hear that right?  She offered to pray for me?  I thank her and said my daughter was doing the same.  We are now climbing the first hill.  I still feel my heart pounding but I am strangely at peace.  Soon we are zooming and swooshing around.  I can't tell when I am upside-down and when I am right-side-up since, unlike the gatekeeper, I can't see what is going to happen ahead of me...  We come to that sudden stop and my head feels like it is still going.  The lady next to me asks how I did.  I tell her that I survived and it is just that I am afraid of heights.  She tells me that she is also afraid of heights but she just prays and she makes it through.  Wow... God met me right where I needed Him to...  Just like He says He will... It was amazing to have a complete stranger there praying for me on the ride.

Now, I did not like the raptor too much.  Not being able to see what was coming was not so cool... when we stopped my head felt like I was still going.  But, I can say I rode the Raptor.  I can say I rode the Gatekeeper and you might just find me on that one again.  But, you can bet I will be praying in line and all the way up.  I am not sure if you will ever find me on the Top Thrill Dragster (appalled that there are not shoulder harnesses) but I will slowly face those things that scare me... next stop on the facing fears train... my son is getting a pet snake... I think I would rather ride Top Thrill...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Swimteam Benefits -- It's Not About Physical Fitness

So for some time now, I have told so many people to think about joining swim team.  I never would have guessed that it was going to be the sport I encouraged my children to be in.  Before I had children, I would listen to one of my co-workers talk about all the swimming and the meets and the SUNBURN (my pale body can't handle that!) and I pretty much decided I was not going to join those crazy people.

But, then as time went on and I saw my son's love of the water I thought it was something he should try.  My daughter was not really interested but I thought my son should do it.  We joined the local rec league... nothing big time here.  I watched him swim for an hour straight -- lap after lap.  Knowing that I could not swim that much I felt good about the exercise my video-game-loving-boy was getting.  I quickly decided this was his phys ed class! :D

The first meet was bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Much earlier than I wanted to be up and I could not imagine my son getting up that early and then swimming!!  But, despite the earlier hour we got up and ate a healthy protein filled breakfast and headed off to the pool.

My son's first race was also his first blue ribbon.  I was so happy for him.  But something even more amazing than that blue ribbon happened.  People who did not even know my son were cheering for him -- just because he was on the team.  Now this may sound silly to you, after all, aren't we supposed to cheer for our team?  But it was a different cheering that what we experienced in other sports.  There was a sense of sincerity to it that lacked in baseball and my daughter's softball.  After that first race, my daughter looked at me and said she wanted to join swim team the next year. 

But over the year things only got better.  My son did not get a blue ribbon in every race but he did have people cheering him on at each race.  And then I saw him.  I still don't know this boy's name but he challenges everything that I thought I knew about sports and sportsmanship.  I am not certain what his disability is, but I suspect he has a milder form of cerebral palsy.  He cannot use one of his arms and walking is not a smooth even gait for him.  But he has the BIGGEST smile and is one of the friendliest boys I have seen.  His jump into the water was anything but graceful.  With only one arm to use he was slow going down the lanes.  Due to his age he had to swim 4 lengths of the pool.  He NEVER gave up.  Other kids were done and he was just heading on his 3rd length but he gave it all he had.  All eyes were on him as he did his last flip turn.  I noticed something the cheering was so loud and crazy that it caught my attention. I looked around and found ALL teams cheering him on.  Everyone was on their feet as if there were watching some sort of photo finish.  I was almost driven to tears at this huge amount of encouragement that people were giving to this boy that many of them did not know.

As the season went on I saw this repeat itself with other children whether they were young or disabled and I saw it again at Champs with this same boy.  I was proud to be part of a great team sport.

The following year at a meet against the same rec league with this young man, it was COLD.  I mean get your kids out of the water and put thick quilts on them as their lips turned blue cold.  My children (my daughter did join the team the following year) were miserable between races trying to keep warm.  Races were slow from cold muscles.  Children lept out of the water and ran to their blankets.  But then the race happened.  This young man was in the water again.  Our guy on our team finished the race again as he was heading on his 3rd leg...  Our guy got out of the water and wrapped his arms around himself and walked from his lane.  But, instead of heading for his towel or his blanket he walked to the lane this other young man was swimming in. He stood there with not an ounce of body fat on him to keep him warm and cheered his opponent on and wait.  When the young man finished, our guy as cold as he was reached out his hand, helped this guy out of the water and hugged him.  How many 15/16 year old boys do you see do that?  Again, near tears!

I stopped our swimmer later and told him how grateful I was to have him as a role model on our team for my young son to watch.  That is the kind of thing is the life skill that I want my kids to learn.  I am sure it exists in other sports, and don't get me wrong there are kids on the swim team that are not the great role models and who do pick fights... but between the cheering and the sportsmanship I have seen on the swim team I am thankful for it. 

I meant to write this article for a while but I was too lazy.  Then a friend of mine wrote about her daughter Ella (Ella's Story) and I saw the story that I wanted to relay repeating itself.  I tell even more people about the benefits of rec level swim teams.  There is just something awesome about them and I am glad my kids are part of ours.  They can show the love of Christ in ways I never imagined!  (and they are in great shape!!)

Just keep swimming...