Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

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Failure IS an Option

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Wednesday night is family night. Our standing date to spend time together. It’s the untouchable night. No work. No interruptions.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband decided that a game of catch was in order, since it was our first rain-free sunny summer Wednesday. And so, with miniature football in hand and triangle formation, he tossed around the old pig-skin with our dudes. (I watched from the sidelines as cheerleader and music coordinator).

If memory serves me well, this is the first time we’ve played catch with our kids. Ever. Why? Because my husband and I aren’t good at sports. We don’t have an interest in most things sporty.

Earlier in the week my 9 year old told me he wasn’t good at sports like football, soccer, and basketball. Despite my protestations he was sad about what he viewed as deficiency.

But WOW can that kid put a mean spiral on a football pass. He knew to line his fingers up with the laces on the ball and follow through with his whole body. When I asked him where he learned how to throw like that, he said, “My PE teacher.”

He had the technique down. His little brother on the other hand didn’t. He needed help. It wasn’t coming easy. What a great opportunity for peer to peer teaching.

Our oldest demonstrated and helped his brother with positioning. And, for the 7 year old it was frustrating when the ball didn’t go where he intended or as far as he wanted. There were tears at failed attempts.

On the flip side, our youngest is a great receiver. He stepped into the ball and wrapped his entire body around it to prevent dropping it.

Instinct? Innate ability? Either way, it was his strength. His big brother was afraid of the ball coming toward him, using his hands and arms to block the ball.

Again, peer teaching. Our 7 year old had the opportunity to demonstrate and instruct his frustrated older brother. There were tears at dropped balls.

For both, there were moments: throwing up of hands, stomping of feet, and blaming, “You didn’t do it right so I could catch it.” Or, “You didn’t tell me that part. That’s why I did it that way.”

There’s room for improvement, but by the end there was laughter and joy; a sense of accomplishment. Since then they’ve gone out on their own to throw the ball around.

Why am I telling you this? A sweet family outing story? No. This evening allowed us to start the dialog about failure and what it means; about starting imperfectly and growing into a skill.

I value failure for what it can teach us. (I talk about failure in writing here.) I despise failure because I wasn’t taught to embrace it. Quite the opposite, I was taught to avoid it. It is only in my adult life that I’ve come to realize the benefits.

I am aware of the need to create an environment where failing is an accepted practice, mostly because we’ve decided to homeschool and assume the full time responsibility of formally educating our boys.

My children need to know how to harness the power of making mistakes. Right now they fear being wrong and messing up. Our football night is a prime example.

Inadvertently I’ve contributed to their sense of foreboding about being anything less than perfect. I have unwittingly taught them to be critical of others shortcomings by a careless comment here and a careless statement there.

 I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

~Michael Jordan

Now I need to unravel this thought process and reframe failure for my boys. It’s time to deliberately teach them that it’s normal and everybody does it: cool kids and geeks, the book wise and the street smart, young and old. Failure is an equal opportunity life coach.

To grow from ignorant to bad; from bad to good; from good to better; and from better to best; we have to be willing to look at where we fell short, what went wrong, label it, and then bridge the gap so we can learn and develop. That’s the beauty of failure.

 It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

~Bill Gates

We put undue pressure on ourselves when we:

  • Fear giving the wrong answers
  • Worry about not getting it right the first time
  • Panic about trying something new

I want to normalize the process of learning from your mistakes, trial and error. We often hear this quote: “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong,” which is true. How in today’s world do we teach our children to leverage their failures instead of berating themselves for the one result?

I don’t know what the answer is but I know it starts with a dialog. It starts with a moment like football family night. It comes with experiential learning and allowing them to own it without shame. Diana Laufenberg said it best here. Or maybe you’ll prefer the way Ramsey Musallam said it here.

This transition from parent to teacher and care-giver to educator has me scared, I am prepared to fail some. Okay, I’m prepared to fail often.

And the best part … I am willing to be transparent in my failures so that I can model for my kids how to respond to our own limitations and push them farther out. J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Graduation address beautifully speaks to failure. And I appreciate her openness. I hope I express it to my children with similar grace and eloquence.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case you have failed by default.

~J.K. Rowling

Where have you failed? What have you learned?
 

Best Beginnings

“There is no beginning too small.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Currently on my nightstand  ... some on loan from friends. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Currently on my nightstand … some on loan from friends.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My best beginning is steeped in words and was the best beginning twice: once as a little girl and once as a parent.

My reading journey began with trepidation … halting steps.

Picture an awkward first grader, uncomfortable in her skin early in life, already different because of the color of her skin and body type. I wanted nothing more than to fit in, to be “normal”.

The youngest child in my family who was replaced as such by a surprise baby sister, school was the environment where I could be myself and where I was most alive.

One challenge … academically I struggled. Often I was in the lowest levels of each subject: math, writing, reading. I didn’t care much about math but reading made an impression.

Life in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t like today. Few people sent their kids to school knowing how to count to one hundred or read by sight. Back in those days reading went hand in hand with phonics.

It’s no wonder that I was “behind”.

There were lots of books in my home but they were mostly adult reads. Both my parents were insatiable readers but I don’t have memories of mom and dad reading to me, although they talk about doing so.

I was frustrated watching my friends and mortal enemies (as if that exists at 7) dive into more complex books than See Spot Run or Dick and Jane. They were growing their skills and vocabulary, sounding out words and counting syllables with fists striking tabletops. All my words were short single beats.

Devastated to find out I wasn’t equal, that I work to do, that I didn’t fit in, it was a heartbreaking time.

You’re wondering how this could possibly be the best beginning?

Well, it forced me to fight for written words. Envy drove me to become the best reader in my peer group instead of the worst. And in the process I fell in love with language, with literature.

Now I experience the world in words similar to conversation bubbles in comics and cartoons. (There’s a book, A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, that I am dying to read because the description of how Felicity views the world feels like how I see it.)

Words and stories and books are how I fit in.

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Round one of in my two part best beginning saga put me on the path of a life long love affair with great stories. Round two is less “hero’s journey” and more practical but no less tied for best.

Looking back at the initial trauma I lived through made me determined that my dudes would have a better tale to tell.

Their reading journey is my second trip to unlocking the wonder of words. It’s a personal mission. Even though it shares the title of best there is something sweeter about walking through it with my boys.

From board books to picture books and from comic books to chapter books and even eBooks to audio books, my boys have fallen in love with the power of stories. And it’s the only gift I felt qualified to give them.

What a rewarding opportunity to observe:

  • Stillness because they’re lost in another world.
  • Peels of laughter that is private joke between them and the pages.
  • Vocabulary beyond their ages and catches me off guard.
  • Expressions of sadness or anger that result in books being thrown down.
  • Conversations that start with “Mom you have to read this because…” Followed by a plot summary or character analysis (and they don’t know that’s what they’re doing).

At ages nine and seven, they own more books than I did when I was old enough to work full time and buy my own. Plus we take advantage of the local library and visit our local bookstores. Another joy is borrowing and loaning books to friends. This summer I hope to facilitate a “book club” experience for them and our small group buddies.

Readers surround them. They believe that readers are leaders.

How wonderful it is to have their reading origins shape their interests. My nine year old is planning a future as a comic book writer and illustrator. His seven-year-old little brother is a fledgling filmmaker.

I pray that this reading life is worthy of best beginning in their estimation. May storytelling stay in their blood. May they bring to words to life for others. May they continue the legacy of reading being the best beginning, twice.

What about you? What are your thoughts on beginnings? What is your BEST beginning?

 NOTE: This was a reflective journal exercise for me. Thanks to Lisa Sonora for sharing her 30-Day ROOT Journal Project with the world. And thank you to Stephanie at Visible and Real for writing the post that led me to Lisa.

I’m Not Your Superwoman

Lois Lane's first appearance as Superwoman. Ar...

Lois Lane’s first appearance as Superwoman. Art by John Sikela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a song I loved growing up, titled: I’m Not Your Superwoman, performed by Karen White. If you were to go check out the lyrics (video here), you’d wonder why it appealed to my teenage self. But it did non-the-less.

A few years ago I started using the catch phrase: “Well I’m off to save the world one person at a time.” It was my standard exit line instead of “bye” or “I have to go.”

People would say things like “Oh you’re a superhero?” Of course, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I would reply in the affirmative. Assuring them, “My cape is tucked into my blazer and my tights and boots were hidden in my heels.

They’d ask, “If you’re a superhero, what powers do you have?”

Thinking they’d stumped me I would smile and say, “I can read minds.”

You know what comes next …

Prove it!”

You’re thinking, she’s out of her @#$% mind,” I’d say, getting a laugh for my flippancy.

I’m not your Superwoman …

Nor do I want to be …

Boy I am only human …” is a line from the song. And that’s me. I’m only human. And most of the time the first person I’m off to save is me, from myself.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up though … my mom was Superwoman. She worked full-time outside of the home. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Even with the help of 4 able-bodied children.

Our house was always clean. She managed to make home-cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 nights were handled by the leftovers. Laundry was always done. And not just washed and dried but folded and put away. And, we didn’t have a dryer, they were hung on a clothesline outside (year round). Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scouring.

It all got done some how; without modern conveniences. We didn’t have a dishwasher (she still doesn’t). I was almost out of high-school before we got a microwave.

Yet, our home was a constant state of “guest readiness”.

Where am I going with this?

My husband and I have been talking about hiring someone to come in and help clean our house; maybe cook meals. We just can’t do it. Not with our schedules and other responsibilities. 

I have several friends who’ve referred their person or service; a maid who fills the gaps in house work and does the things that they just can’t. It seems the norm within my peer group.

And crazy as it sounds … it feels like cheating … taking an unauthorized shortcut. I actually feel guilty for needing the help (which I shouldn’t – feel guilty that is).

I mean what’s different from the generation before to my generation now? I guess each generation has its battle. For my mom, she was up against the June Cleaver model of wife and mother.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still … how’d she pull it off?

My mother was always the first one up and usually the last one down. Which is true for me too but I accomplish far less around the house than she did.

I don’t remember seeing her enjoy much of the homey home she provided. She rarely sat to read a book or watch TV. Maybe on Mothers’ Day or her birthday meals were prepared and served to her. There weren’t days of staying in her PJs to cuddle up with us.

That’s not what I want from my life.

So this is me giving myself permission: I’m NOT Your Superwoman.

I’m just a woman … a mom … a wife … an employee … a daughter … a friend … a sister … Dreaming of living a SUPER life.

Now I’m off to save my world.

To all you Superwomen out there, my cape’s off to you for all that you do!

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)

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