Friday, May 19, 2017

I'm growing kids, not tomatoes!

As a parent, you try your hardest at times to make everything just right, and sometimes minor inconveniences can appear to be major catastrophes. This is particularly true when you have limited perspective on how tragic and painful life can be.

While living in Japan years ago, my wife was attempting to raise cherry tomatoes on the balcony of our apartment. It wasn't a major gardening effort, but with space at a premium in Tokyo, my wife wanted to grow a few things to supplement our dinner plate. Then, one day we realized that our 2-year-old daughter had discovered the joy of picking the tomatoes and tossing them down the stairs (and they don't bounce very well either).

Now, while it wasn't a life-threatening scenario, it was somewhat disappointing to us to have missed out on a potentially nice load of delicious tomatoes. Yet, reflecting back on that, her picking them didn't raise the event to a category 5 hurricane. It was one of those things that you just need to brush off and laugh a little.

By doing so in similar situations, anyone might be able to build some resilience when (not if) real dire circumstances blow our way.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kids are like a Garden

In some ways, tending a garden is like raising kids. You simply can't toss a few seeds out into the garden and then expect some results with out preparing the soil (teaching good principles), watering it as needed (giving constant love and attention), pulling out weeds (correcting our children and protecting them from negative and unhealthy influences, when and where possible), and channeling their energy to grow tall.

In our garden as you see here, we grow our melons vertically using different supports. Melons have the energy to grow just about anywhere, but you have to direct their energy and give them the right support to reach their potential.

Over the years, we have had a good harvest by using this method, but we have to give it proper attention. Kids, in like manner, will flourish with the right amount of teaching, correction, support, and love.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Crossing the Finish Line

A week ago, I completed my first 100-mile race called the Salt Flats 100, which took place on and around the Bonneville Salt Flats in western, Utah.

It was exhausting!

The race started in mostly sunny, but chilly weather on Friday, and it took me 34 hours to complete it. I must say there were moments . . . . many of them starting around mile 10 . . . that I really questioned whether I could do it. Exhaustion, blisters, pains here and there, and time kept trying to remind me of how inadequate I was to the task. Then, when I reached mile 74 at 4:00 a.m., I had been stumbling, almost sleep walking in the frigid air, when I arrived at the aid station, and I really thought I would just accept the fact that I couldn't go any farther.

I entered the aid station tent, and I plopped down in a chair and rested for an hour, and I could hear whispers that I was too weary to continue. These voices came from inside my head and from the aid workers who were assisting runners there. "Hey, watch that guy. He really looks beat up."

However, I knew that I couldn't and shouldn't give up quite yet because time and reflection have a way of helping people regroup, mentally and physically. Finally, as I arose from my chair and stepped outside the tent to reevaluate my condition, I was greeted with dawn slowly breaking in the eastern sky. The day, awakening from its dark slumber, greeted me with new hope. I changed my socks and quickly downed some pancakes, and continued on until the finish line.

So, what things did I learn from the experience? Wow, I just can't count them. The main thought that comes to me today is that we shouldn't quickly give up on dreams and hopes, even when we are getting beat up in the process. Small baby steps forward into the unknown and darkness can lead to brighter times ahead. I would say this of friendships and raising a family. Pressing forward, showering love and kindness on others, and catching people when they stumble are vital keys to our growth and happiness. There is always hope.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Balancing Your Priorities

People don't care how much you know
until they know how much you care.

As young parents (which I am NOT at this point in my life), people often spend much of their focus on expanding and developing their careers with the philosophy that their new employment opportunities and salary will benefit their children in the years to come.

Futhermore, we sometimes live with the false impression that young kids require more time than teenagers or adult children; however, my experience has been quite the opposite in that my older and adult children have needed just as much and even more attention than the did when they were little.

Earlier in my career as a teacher, I spent a great deal of time presenting and traveling with the idea that this exposure and experience would get me ahead in my field. (Hey, who wouldn't accept invitations to be a keynote speaker at conferences around the world?) I tried to justify the sacrifice of being away from family as a stepping stone to something greater for them. However, kids will never remember the awards and recognition that you received beyond the walls of your home. In fact, although teenagers might not readily admit it, they need your time, your ear, just as much or even more than they didn when they were crawling on your knee.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with plenty of adversity (and happy for it----after the fact), for it is the one thing that always seems to truly introduce man to himself. In a way, I'm glad I didn't realize how hard life would get over the years in raising a family, for in fact, if any young couple had any idea of the plethora of unfortunate events that generally come to all of us, fewer couples would probably get married. Personally, I saw my weaknesses and tried to make myself better.

Going back to balancing priorities, kids need to know how much you care about them, and such can be accomplished by the simpliest things (things I have done with my family): playing a game of chess, snowing camping in the mountains, running together in a race, gritting your teeth and daring to take your new driver on the freeway for driving practice, sitting up all night to watch a meteor shower.

Someone once said that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul (moving) truck, and in the same way, the only things that I believe that you can take with you after you die are your personal character and your family.