Sunday, June 22, 2014

I run because I'm happy. . .I run because I'm free

Monday was the first official day of summer and my birthday and it was my best birthday yet. I planned to enjoy myself by celebrating the simple but beautiful things in life. I woke up to an arrangement of flowers from BJ, a note of love, a keurig and a home-made fruit salad.
 I enjoyed my breakfast on the back porch while Molly snuck in some time to play with Anna Cate's guitar in her high heels.

Both girls had swim practice and then we headed to Marian's for brunch. 

 They were treated to summer gifts, which included a beautiful book called GRATEFUL, which Anna Cate read to us.

 And my birthday present to myself was a long run in the battlefield, made possible by Marian who watched the girls for me.
I grew up in the country where I felt like I did not have the opportunities my children have. . .like swim team. Therefor, it is not lost on me that what I treat myself to on the day I could do anything (well most of anything) I want is enjoy something I did have growing up . . .long roads in the countryside.  On these jaunts, there is nothing but the countryside, my thoughts on life, spiritual understandings and an appreciation for the blessings of my life which I pause to celebrate on my birthday.

The reason we have such expanses of nature in the midst of suburban sprawl and icky strip malls is the historical preservation of the Civil War battlefields.  I chose to run on my birthday in the steps of the Battle of Fredericksburg, but in past years I've run in others nearby. 
I stop and take pictures, stretch, breath and focus on all the metaphors in life I can as a way of seeing the connections in this one, wild and precious life. It is almost like Pandora knows these longs runs are times for me to reflect because the music provides such rich connections to my thoughts and directives for life.

I just keep thinking about how grateful I am for the experiences, family and health.  Most of all I focus on the clarity of perspective age has bestowed on me, which seems most clear as I run in these open spaces.  I think about how much I appreciate this time and space that has been available to me my whole life. Like the good witch tells Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, "you had it all along."
I ended up running/jogging/walking 8 and it felt so good. 
I listened to songs on a black spiritual station I've discovered, where I find the soul of a joy and faith in these songs inspiring.  With each step and deep breath, I'm reminded of the faith journey of my own soul and all the friends and loved ones I've had along the way. I am not sure what I believe about theology but I'm convinced of the presence of the Holy Spirit. 
I feel most closely connected to the center of this spirit as I breath in the beauty of simple scenes of nature.  Running and focusing on my blessings reminds me as the song did that His eye is on the sparrow. . so why should I be discouraged?

These songs come on the "Oh Happy Day" station. . . and, that it was.
This journey, both the run and my life,  beholds so much beauty. Of course there are hills and times I have to stop and walk, yet like the disappointments, the scenes and stories take my breath away. I'm continually thankful for what I've had all along.
To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing. . .you have only to push aside the curtain. 
~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finding Gratitude over Pride

This summer, Molly starts swim team.  I could focus on how proud I am of her for knowing how to swim and having the confidence to go out and do it, being the youngest member of the team. But more than anything, I'm grateful for the opportunities my kids have. 
I teach in a school with a lot of students who don't seem to have the parental involvement and/or resources that I think are crucial to raising kids. While I I find myself frustrated with parents' lack of attention to the things that I value, my own parents raised me with enough compassion to realize that I shouldn't criticize unless "I've walked in another's shoes." So as my own children get older, in addition to feeling proud of Anna Cate and Molly, I'm really grateful for the leaders, coaches and teachers who help us raise them to participate in activities like sports, music and church. 

Several weeks ago, Anna Cate ran in a fun run at another Elementary School. She was sick on Friday but pushed through to run because her own elementary gym teacher would be there cheering for her.

Anna Cate finished her winter swim league and placed in every event. 

Her favorite stroke is the butterfly and I'm so proud her.
She has great coaches who want her to have fun as much as they care about learning the strokes. She gets a great work out twice a week while BJ and I get to work out, too. Nearby, there is another program, which is a lot more intense and competitive, and I will have to figure out the right time to step it up.
The girls are the reason we go to church on Wednesday night.  I always find God there, and it is fabulous, authentic fellowship but is such a hassle to get to church by 5:15 on a Wednesday night for dinner and the children's choir practice at 6. The girls love it, though, and the season culminated in a really fun musical.

As we were waiting anxiously for summer to begin, we've enjoyed some evenings at the pool, including a play date with our best friends.

But I think it is fair to say, we were ready for  summer as we enjoyed the traditions of winding down a school year. Anna Cate had an amazing 2nd grade experience; her teacher was fabulous, kind, firm, consistent and a great teacher. Anna Cate is reading a chapter book a week and I'm so thankful she has had such a good experience in the classroom, and I'm quite proud of her reading. But I realize, it is not just her…it's that great teacher!!

An "end of the year" tradition is the sleepover at Miss Diana's. She goes "all out" throughout the year to make fun memories for the children for whom she cares, but the Spring sleepover are over the top in the  most fantastic way. Each year, there is a theme. . . kept a secret. This year, Molly forgot her pillow and at 4'o clock when I stopped by Diana's to say, "have a good time" to Molly, I offered to come back to bring the pillow. Diana said, "you can't come --- I'm not giving you a sneak peek." 

Anna Cate enjoyed a Pirate's Paradise, a Hawaiian luau, a cowboy hoe-down, and Molly's first experience was a beach party last year, and last weekend Molly and her friends were treated to a camp out.

CampOut from Sarah King on Vimeo.

The next day, my best friend Norah took the girls to a missions day at church where they did a series of good things, including taking potted plants to a group home.

Recently, in Molly's prayers, she says, "God, thank you for helping others and teaching us to help people." I think she embodies what I'm trying to say and to live ---- focus on being grateful for the experiences and the people who make them possible.

 All that we behold is full of blessings. ~William Wordsworth