Moving Towards Joy

I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” again. I love that book! The point I’m at is one of my favorites and I thought I’d share it with you. The angels are trying to talk to the ghosts of man and convince them to enter Heaven. They offer joy but each person rejects it for what he already has. He refuses to let go of what he has, even though it not really bringing him joy, and accept the bliss he sees in front of him. He does not recognize it as bliss, only sacrifice. “There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality.”

It brought to mind how many times I’ve heard friends and acquaintances comment about our homeschooling choice. Most people I’ve met have, outwardly anyway, admired our lifestyle and the results of our education choice but when I tell them they too could have what we have, they generally remark that “It’s not for them.” or “It works for your family but it’d never work for ours.” They tell me that they don’t enjoy rushing to and from school, homework, and after-school activities. They are not satisfied with the outcome of the schooling their children have had. They dislike the bullying and confinement of the school system. Yet, when I say “Choose differently.” or “There are other options.” they give excuses about why they must remain where they are, unhappy and unsatisfied. Why?

I really don’t understand our resistance to change. Even when what we have is clearly not making us happy we stand there hoping that someday we will learn to be happy with it instead of trying something new or changing something about our surroundings.

Choosing to homeschool has not been a sacrifice for our family. It is the running toward joy and peace. Yes. I have “sacrificed” being busy, handing over control of my life, bullying, and a myriad of other things for the joy and peace of a lifestyle that brings our family closer and provides a better education for our children with less stress and negative effects. I can’t think of a single thing I’d rather have than that.

New Social Expectations?

Public Service Announcement: Emails and Texts vs Blogs, Articles, and Social Media Posts

Does this really need to be said? I’ve run across this problem so many times over the last several years and it’s really starting to get on my nerves how few people have any communication skills whatsoever. We live in a communication filled world, right? Yes, it has changed dramatically over the last ten years but there are still basic rules. Aren’t there? Am I the only one that sees them? Does no one else have any expectations of response in certain situations? Sometimes it seems that even in person the rules have changed. I was sitting at my table at a conference and when people walked by and looked at my literature, I looked at them, smiled, and pointed them to my card and talked about my mission. Rarely did anyone look up at me, some just nodded and walked away, some just walked away as if I was not there. What’s going on? But I digress.

My recent issue is online communication. The internet has opened up the world for us to virtually move in. Yet we refuse to connect with each other. I write messages to people and they don’t respond. And these aren’t “cold calls”. These are people that have asked me a question and then not responded to the answer. I cannot imagine doing this at an in-person meeting, but then it has happened to me at meetings, too!

I’ve decided to write down my own expectations in the hopes of reaching out to the world and seeing if anyone else out there feels the same way. Here we go.

If someone is talking to you in the physical world, look at them, listen, and respond out loud. A simple “thank you” is usually good. A smile or pleasant look is helpful as well. I still can’t believe that I have to actually say that.

But then I wonder, “Do people think that online communication is somehow different than “real life” communication?” It really isn’t. We have the same categories and rules for written communication online as we do in the physical world of snail mail.

Blogs, Articles, and Social Media posts don’t need to be responded to unless you feel compelled to do so. It’s just like a newspaper/magazine article. You wouldn’t necessarily respond to the author or publisher unless you felt very strongly and then maybe you’d write a letter to them. Mostly we would probably discuss or share it amongst the people around us. Online, it’s the same thing. The “comment” section of an article is really just a quick way to respond to the author or publisher, not to have a conversation with strangers. Heated conversations with strangers about a deep or personal subject rarely get anywhere and usually just cause deeper rifts between the participants.

Emails and Texts are the same as phone calls and similar to personal letters, that is unless it is a newsletter or ad. Those come in the snail mail too and we don’t respond to them, we use them. But an email or a text from an individual is the same as them writing you a letter or calling. Respond as if you are in a conversation. Of course, email should be treated the same as snail mail. When you got a letter from your friend, you knew that she was waiting for a letter from you in response. The next chance you got, you wrote back, and so on until the conversation was obviously over. Email is so much quicker and easier. The same goes for emails from businesses that you have contacted for help. There is another person waiting for a response.

Texts are the same as phone calls but a tad more polite. In a text, you don’t need to bother your friend in the middle of a movie or dinner. They can hear the alert and answer it at their convenience but there is the general expectation of a return message, just like if I called your house and left a message on your answering machine. It’s quick and easy to use text the same way you’d use a call. I text. You answer when convenient. We go back and forth and then end the conversation with a “talk to you later”, “gotta run”, or “thanks for getting back to me”. You don’t just leave the conversation hanging. You wouldn’t do it on the phone, so why do you do it in a text?

I had started to think the people are just getting more and more rude over the past ten years but now I’m starting to question that? Do we just have a different set of social rules now and I haven’t gotten the memo? Or are is the media in which we communicate changing so fast that we haven’t built up any social rules about them yet? We’re all floundering around trying to figure it out, offending some people in the process, and putting up walls between us because we just aren’t all working with the same set of expectations. It feels like we are all from different worlds at a space age United Nations type meeting. Everyone has their own set of rules and no one realizes that everyone else’s rules are different from theirs.

Take it easy peeps!

My question of the day is, “Why does everyone take everything so stinkin’ seriously?” I was at the grocery store yesterday just humming along. I take a look around me and everyone is deep in thought. They look angry or on a mission. That goes for everywhere I go; the post office, the gym (sometimes), the hardware store. It’s just every day living people! Lighten up! It’s not like you’re facing some life-altering decision at Walmart. Just pick up the things you need and be happy. You’re surrounded by thousands of choices and relatively cheap prices. No one is trying to kill you or harass you. Even if you hear someone make some derogatory comment or look, I highly doubt it will change your life even a little bit. Even if the item you wanted isn’t on the shelf or the line is a tad too long because the checker is so slow, will it really matter in the long run? Will babies die if you can’t turn right on the red light because the person in front of you is taking more of a precaution than you would? I really don’t think so. Turn up the radio and enjoy one more song. Take a minute to look at people and smile as you pass them in the aisle. Actually hear the checker’s “Did you find everything you needed?” and answer her in a positive way even if it’s a lie. Crack a joke. Sing a song as you shop. It’s ok! The world isn’t set against you. Life is not a race against the clock. Look around you and enjoy all that you do have and the potential of the world we live in!

Queen of Half-Ass

Knitting! I’m not sure why I keep trying sometimes. I look at the line in the pattern, count 8, count 8 again, count 8 on my needle, and then come up with seven at the end, look down at the line again and find 7 in the pattern. What in the world? I could swear that I there were 8! I just don’t get it. It’s like there is someone messing with my mind. Luckily, I’ve been doing this for a long while now and know how to fix it to get it back on track and I’m not much of a perfectionist, so I’m not bothered by a few funky stitches. That is something that bugs my husband and sons to the ends of the earth! I don’t let getting it right or good get in the way of getting something done or out in the world, which is probably why my blog posts tend to have more than a few grammatical errors. I write it and post it, rarely rechecking beyond what “spell check” and “Grammarly” (which my youngest son put me on to) have underlined for me. I’m not much of a writer either. I’m just kind of the the queen of half-ass, which reminds me that was one of my mother’s favorite things to tell me when I was a kid. “If you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t bother to do it at all!” I strongly disagree. A half-assed sink full of dishes washed is better than no dishes washed. I don’t know. I guess I kind of just have fun giving it a try and not thinking about it much.

Breathe!

We focus so much on our breath during meditation because it resembles so much of our existence. We feel the breath coming in, pull it closer, and then let it out slowly, experiencing its release. If we did not release that old breath, that breath that was so sweet and perfect when it came to us, we’d suffocate. It has become what would kill us.

There are so many things in our lives that resemble that sweet breath. I’ll take the experience I’m having now, motherhood. You hear people talk about motherhood being forever, that your children are always your babies no matter how old they get. That may be true on some levels. I know that when I look into the eyes of my 6-foot tall 16-year-old son, I still see the “Mommy! Please!” look when he really wants something. I know I will always want to run to his aid and pet his head. But is it healthy for us to not allow that relationship to evolve and grow? My son doesn’t need me to hold his hand to cross the street. He doesn’t need me to be involved in every decision he makes like he did when he was little. Every conquest, every learned skill doesn’t need to be brought to my attention. It used to though and that made my heart so happy. Our lives have been closely connected the last 16 years but as he grows into a man, I know I’m working myself out of a job. I had my first painful glimpse of that this week when I realized he knew people that I didn’t know, and it was a girl. That seemed to make it even worse. The feeling of betrayal washed over me. “You’re only supposed to love me!”, I thought to myself. But that’s not true and we know it. I let the feeling wash over me and leave. I’m excited to see a new side of my son. I’m happy to see him moving out into the world without me, but I panic to think I won’t be there to hold his hand unless he wants me to. Remember that movie, Abyss, when they show the rat breathing the fluid? I feel like that rat. The water is coming up and I know it will soon cover my head. There will be a point that I cannot hold my breath any longer and will be forced to take that breath of fluid. Unlike the rat, the people knew logically that they would be able to breathe that fluid, yet they still panicked. Some more than others. Will I panic? Or will I let the panic wash over me and leave, so that I can breathe easily and continue on to the next place in my life?

Right now I’m taking many deep breaths and remembering them each time. Feeling them come and go reminds me that the old goes out and the new comes in and it’s just as sweet as that first breath. And then I remember I have to go through all of this twice, with my younger son right behind the older. It feels so much like loss but I know, logically, that it’s not. It’s just a change and how that change goes depends largely on how much I panic and fight against it. I’m scared and excited all at once. I’m not sure that I like it at all, but I guess I don’t really have a choice, do I?

International Peace Day? Sounds good to me.

Real, lasting peace begins with your own mind and body, extends to those in your home, neighborhood, and town, and then moves out into the world.
Until everyone finds that peace in their inner sphere of influence, there is no hope of that peace finding its way into the wider world.
Pray and meditate on how you can increase the peace of your own home before you worry about what other people are doing.
As a Christian, I know that God has His hand on my heart and I can do all things through Him. Lord, I pray that those who want Your peace have the courage to take it and keep it in their hearts, extending that love to those around them unconditionally.

My Sons Race Motocross

My sons race motocross. Those words seem to strike terror in the heart of other mothers almost as much as if I said “My son is a drug dealer.” It’s so strange to me and it’s not because it doesn’t scare me when they are out there on the track, as if I’m oblivious of the risks involved. If I said, my teenage son plays football or drives to work every day, no one would ask my why I let them do that. And those activities are just as risky, if not more so because people don’t see them as a risk. People take risks. They just do. Hopefully they are calculated risks that have the potential to bring them happiness but that isn’t always the case. Teenagers are more inclined to take risks, not because they enjoy being difficult but because it is part of the growing up process. If they didn’t take risks, they’d never fully mature into adults. As people mature (not always as they get older) they stop taking as many risks. It’s just life. Everyone has the thing that makes them happy. Finding it is the key. For my sons, it’s motocross and not just riding but racing. Lucky for us, both the boys love the same sport and there is no conflict of time, energy, and funds. I think I’ll describe a bit of what they do so that you may get the feeling of why they love it and why we support their efforts.

A few years ago, my Dad and Step-Mom got the boys a small mini-bike. It wasn’t a dirt bike. It was more like a bike built around a lawnmower engine. It had a pull start and wide tires. The boys rode it to death and within a few months were eager to get a “real” dirt bike. Living in the desert on five acres, there was no reason not to comply with that request. They began to scour the internet for a small bike they could ride around the neighborhood or out camping. And they found one right away. The man that sold it to us is still a friend today and hired the boys to do some work around his house so that they could afford to fix up another bike they bought.

So now we were the proud owners of two dirt bikes, then three, and then five. The boys were growing, in size and riding skill, so they were fixing up and outgrowing bikes pretty quickly. They learned a lot fixing up those bikes. Some of them were pretty big projects. One bike needed a “top-end rebuild” and a “resurfaced piston”. And one bike we bought wouldn’t start at all and the guy said he was riding it and it just stopped running. That engine needed to be completely rebuilt. The boys did all this work themselves with little oversight from Dad who works from home and was able to come out and lend a hand when things got tough. My husband is not a motorcycle mechanic but he does know a thing or two about engines. The internet is an amazing thing!

When they finally settled in on a couple of bikes, they really wanted to try out riding at a motocross track. How did they come across this information, I may never know! They found tracks, read about riding there, the rules, the gear they’d need, etc. They practiced riding around the house and the same guy that sold us our first bike came over with a tractor and dug them a track on our property to practice on! They are relentless when they want to do something, so eventually they wore me down with all their information about riding and I told them I’d take them when they could load and unload the truck without help. I’m not strong enough to push bikes up ramps! Of course, they went outside and did it the minute I said it and we began planning a ride day for the next week.

I took the boys on my own to the track during the week because we figured it would be much less crowded than a weekend. I’ve never been so nervous to go somewhere. I asked the guy at the gate what to expect, explaining that we had never ridden at a track before. He was the nicest person I’ve ever met in motocross! He gave us the run down, looked at the boys bikes and gear, and talked to them a bit. He said they’d be fine and to look forward to racing because everyone that tries a track wants to race. Great.

After that first day, we went to the track many times. I found a friend that used to race a bit and he met us there on a Saturday and gave the boys some pointers. That’s when the requests to race started to come up. The idea terrified me and not because I was afraid of them getting hurt. I was afraid for other riders! Most of these guys have been racing since they were four years old. They all work very hard to get on that track and mine had just started riding dirt bikes. What if they did something that got someone else very hurt? Don’t you need training to do this? Where do you even start? The boys knew, of course! Everything they read, watch, and talk about is about racing! We decided to start with hiring a trainer for a day to see if they even had the skills to give it a try. She said they were definitely ready. Sigh.

There was a race series starting in the next couple weeks, so we decided to go as a spectator and see how the whole thing worked. We arrived just after the sun came up and found a parking space. We walked around and talked to people. We watched the races and saw fast and slow riders, big and mini-bikes. The boys talked to the race people and they told them which class they should probably start in and we watched that race. It all seemed pretty do-able, much like Little League but on dirt bikes.

We signed up for the next series and have been going ever since. The boys rarely win but they have a blast every time. We’ve been soaked to the skin in rain and mud, stood there sweating in the 110 degree heat, listened to loud generators all night, and sat in Emergency rooms for hours. But they keep wanting to go back. We spend almost all our extra money on racing and it’s accouterments. The boys train every day. They ride mountain bikes for ten miles. The run a mile a day. They have changed their diet. They joined a crossfit gym and an indoor rock climbing gym. The pay for half of all their bike stuff and gas. They do all their own repairs. We eat, breathe, and sleep motocross.

And through all of it our family is stronger. We spend our weekends together at the track or in the garage. We spend our weekdays together training. They even got me up off the couch! We play cards and guitars after practice, camped out in a parking lot for the next days race. We grocery shop and cook together, trying to eat better and get stronger. They read articles and watch videos about how to ride better and faster. And they challenge themselves at the track. It’s not about winning to them. It’s about being there, a part of something exciting, and getting better every time. We’ve made friends along the way and really enjoy being at the track with them. I can’t imagine our lives without it.

What I wonder is where they will go with all of this? Will they become the next Chad Reed? It’s not likely. But they will be a part of a pretty fun community of people. And I’m sure they will share this love with their families when they are older. I know I’ll love going to the track and watching my grandkids race!

The risk, the pain, the injury’s, the sweat, the tears, the effort; it’s all worth it. It’s worth it to see my sons put their heart and soul into something that makes them so happy and fulfilled. It’s worth it to see the pride in their eyes when they clear that jump or pass that guy. It’s worth it to see their dirty hands in my kitchen sink after a days work of fixing something few 14 year olds even know exist. It’s worth it to see their independence and confidence grow and watch them mature into young men instead of just bored teenagers. My heart hurts for them when they are in pain from an injury, but it soars with them when they get back on that bike and sit in that gate, poised and ready for it to drop.

Why do I “let” my sons race motocross? That’s like asking me why I let them live, love, and breathe.