The dreary day that some may be seeing out their window today looks vastly different to me. Add fog to a muddy landscape, and the view becomes something you can sink your teeth (or Wellies) into. Don’t underestimate the good things right in front of us.
I am sitting on the floor in my pajamas as the noon hour approaches. I have been here a long while. My dog stands over me contemplating what could be an epic failure unfolding. Never before has following directions ever been so critical. One wrong step and and the entire project goes off course. I am deep into an Ikea project.
When walking into Ikea, I envision a perfect world: linear, minimal and compartmentalized as only can be achieved by the likes of the Swedes. Somehow, they have made entire houses fit into small (but very heavy) boxes. The Ikea way is one completely foreign to my personal existence. My daughter, in her quest to find her teenage self has decided that the modern approach is what works best for her. The one wrench in the cog of modern life lies in the fact that we live in a 260 year old house. Ya…just picture it. We have but one room that could play the Ikea role; a converted attic over the new part of the house (if you want to call 1938 new). This would be a nook that my Kate...aka...Judy Jetson would be styling in. It would take three trips to Ikea, to execute the plan. The first trip, I would enter the monster warehouse over-whelmed and leave almost empty handed except for the frozen vanilla yogurt I desperately clung on to for some comfort . The second trip would be prove more harrowing with an idealistic teen dreaming of clean lines and funky modern accents. On the final trip, I would march into the store like a seasoned soldier, sizes checked and measured, ready to tackle bins and aisles and flex some particle board-heaving muscle. But first I had to eat some delicious Swedish meatballs. Unknowingly, I had been preparing for this moment for many years. Thanks to European toy-makers like Lego and Playmobil, dumping out a box of Ikea wouldn't be a far stretch from the much smaller building endeavors of my many Christmas' past. If I could build the Playmobil princess castle in one 5 hour stretch on Christmas day, surely I could build a cherished piece from my daughter's modern dream-room. The game was on as 400 odd shaped nuts and bolts fell from the bag. I chuckled as I noticed that like Playbobil, it came with it's own special tools. In the spirit, I played the Abba Pandora station because Swedish furniture deserves a groovin Swedish quartet. I would go page by page though the manual, laughing at the funny pictures of the frustrated builder. Over and over, I would try to pronounce the name of the piece…TOFTERYD…yet it kept coming out like TUFF TURD. Why didn't they just name it the "Bob Smith" out of compassion for linguistic challenged Americans?
I sat back appreciating the fact that the structure was built and not a single piece was left over. In front of me sat a modern masterpiece. I believe Jane Jetson would have been proud.
Armstrong has come clean. Armstrong's journey has been one that has kept us transfixed for two decades. We watched him breathlessly over the years doing what few can do. He was my son's ONLY sporting hero. Peter dressed as Armstrong for Halloween, donned a figure of him on his birthday cake and hung a huge poster of him on the wall of his room. He wears Livestrong and has watched hundreds of hours of Armstrong tour footage. Thanks Lance, you put a mother in a tough spot.
He has taken the demise of his hero well. When talking to my son about Armstrong's demise, it feels as though I am discussing the death of a relative as I try to approach the topic sensitively. While there is a sense of mourning of the person we thought Armstrong was, I am not surprised of the truth. Every athlete begins a sport hoping to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but at the root of every athletes journey is the desire to win. Not a single athlete who has reached a higher level in a sport hasn't thought of the "what if" scenario. What if I took this drug, could the Olympic team be guaranteed?
Steroids and blood doping have been the elephant in the room in nearly every sport I was ever involved in. I grew up in a sport (Rowing) where entire foreign national teams were repeatedly accused of doing steroids. They were machines and no matter how clean we rowed, dopers would often prevail. Once an athlete dopes, there is no way way out except retirement. If you stop doping, you performance falters and off the pedestal he or she falls. It's a vicious circle for those who decide that course and one that cannot be reversed without a fiery fall from grace. Is it really worth it?
Armstrong had many reasons to stick with his lie. Money was probably at the root of it. Fame is also difficult to step away from with your humility in tack. My guess is that there were so many people involved in Armstrong's lie that he was cornered by it. The collegues that went after him, were captured dopers, they attacked him out of necessity. He continued his own lie not only to protect himself but the hundreds of colleagues he knew he would drag under the bus. So self-involved, he dragged us all under the bus, including my 11 year old kid.
We all like to feel like we learn something from our sports heroes. I wont soon forget forget his victorious moments on Alpe d'Huez , whether deserving or not. Ironically enough, Lance's fatal flaw could end up being his most teachable moment about what not to do as an athlete and a human being. Let's hope we all learn something form this.
We are a family of triathletes. The most disturbing trend that I have noticed in the past 5 years is the use of amateur athletes using PED's. A time-frame that once easily qualified my husband for the Ironman World Championships is now broken by many. While the sport has grown and training may have become more effective, their is no doubt in my mind that a select population will break the rules just so they can say they went to Kona for the big race. Recently, drug-testing has effectively removed the crowns off of some of the biggest named triathletes. Yet, amateurs are still not tested in the sport. What gives? Getting to the root of the problem at the amateur level would undoubtedly prevent even more grief at the pro level of sporting.
It would be interesting to see Armstrong be allowed to compete in an Ironman, newly clean of PED's. I couldn't imagine that he would dope himself up after confessing to Oprah. To see the outcome of Armstrong racing clean, would be good closure for all of his previous fans. Many of us still believe that despite his many shortcomings as a person and the toxic juice he was on, he still was the greatest bike racer ever. For Armstrong, racing again would be his only card left to show us that he wasn't a sham. Still, I can venture to say that holding back a tarnished athlete from racing is life's most just punishment. In my mind, the verdict is still out on this.
At only 11, there is no better dinner table discussion for my son then the one of making the right decisions about avoiding PED's. Now that his hero has fallen, this decision should come easier. Despite the recent news, my son forges on in his own goals of swimming, biking and running. He does it because it makes him feel good and yes, he still believes he can win. Armstrong may have disappointed my son, but thankfully there has been one constant in his sporting life. This hero may not be on tv winning the biggest of races, but he can be seen locally pounding the pavement and winning on so many levels. In the evening, this sports hero sits at the head of the table; call it his podium. While Armstrong made a living out of riding a bicycle, my husband uses a bicycle to get him to and from his job so he can make a living. His integrity as an athlete has spanned four decades. His legacy as an athlete is directly connected to his son's own legacy. In sports their will always be winners and losers. Deciding which one you're going to be, may be the most important decision an athlete ever makes.
It's been a trying time in Connecticut since the Newtown tragedy. As we all try to come to terms with how and why this could have happened, I am equally concerned of how and why this could happen again in the future. As the gun debate rages on, I can't help but venture into another direction of thought. I often wonder if the problems we endure as a society stem from individuals feeling disconnected. For some years now, I have led a group of middle-schoolers in a program called Go Far. The program is simple. We exercise together so we can feel better individually. From week to week, I devise group workouts that focus on strengthening each person emotionally and physically. No one is ever left out of the activity. We have become a bit of a rag tag crew. Some will be our varsity leaders in sport while other may be happiest at the intramural level. Either way, these kids are connected. Despite their differences, they are a team. When they walk down the hall, they have been taught to make eye contact with each other and say hello. No one should feel alone or defeated. To carry it further, these kids also know that if they need an adult to listen to them, their Go Far mentor will listen no matter what their dilemma. I know their is no one answer to prevent tragedies, but I do believe that it starts with a community that is watching and listening. These days, Congress seems to spend its time trying to figure out how to reel in "We The People". I have found my own little enclave of "We the people, for the people" in a bunch of middle-school kids. My personal answer starts by opening doors and building assets, rather than letting them swing shut. It's best not to constantly define rules, boundaries and expectations, good people will define these themselves and pass them on to their peers.
From what I have gathered, a middle-school minded Constitution could look something like this: (It probably applies to most grown-ups too)
We want to speak, be seen and be heard.
We want to be every-day heroes.
We want to participate.
We want to do our best and get credit for it.
We need responsibility.
Broken laws can lead you to losing your seat at the lunch table.
We need authority: leaders and followers are both essential and they are usually discovered in the playground.
We still have a somewhat pure view of the world, even if we're becoming more skeptical.
We know the difference between right and wrong. Whoever influences us, defines this.
How can you help in your community? It has been said that anyone who volunteers, never feels lonely. I encourage you to Go Far for the people of your community.
Good Morning Middlefield! Aside from this spectacular sunrise, it's Friday and that's something we can all be thankful for. A quick grab of the camera and a trek into the field across the street allowed this shot. I looked for a focal point beside the rising sun. I can thank Miles for once again completing the composition as he too watched the sunrise.
I still feel full. Three weeks after stepping foot off “The Oasis of The Seas”, I don’t find myself hungry. We ate like royalty for seven days. Cruising on the world’s largest cruise ship contradicts the very essence of the way we normally live. Usually, we line dry our laundry and live rustically in a 300 year old house. My husband bike commutes to work. We eat simply and we do our best not to live beyond our means. So how did we end up on this mammoth vessel? Truth be told, a vacation away from our everyday normal felt strangely liberating. I’ll admit, I did feel some guilt while eating my second dessert of the evening minutes before getting into a turned down bed with chocolates on the pillow. But for seven luxurious days, I never had to worry about what to cook for my kids. Nothing needed to be hung dry but my bathing suit. I could relax knowing my deadlines had been met, and there would be no work to do. Just day’s before the holiday, the stockings were hung with assurance that Christmas would be “A Go” upon our return home. For seven days, there would be no phone calls, no internet, no news and the world would feel like a simplified fraction of what our life is like normally. Stow away with me for a minute and have a glimpse of this floating world.
Yes, the boys picked out these shirts all by themselves!
It takes a bit of courage to start the de-Christmasization process. After Jan 1st, you know it's time. By Jan 7th, your feel like a slacker. If you still have the stockings hung in February (and you know who you are), then you may as well start next year's Christmas shopping. Either way, the "ho ho ho" stuff should be down by the time you pay your Christmas Visa bill. This year Christmas came and went like a bullet train. We missed the holiday lead-up due to a vacation. I spent the night before Christmas, hastily decorating our home for the holidays. A couple years back, while browsing an antique store, my dad came upon the mother-load of department 56 Dicken's houses. For $200 he came home with over almost 50 houses and a ton of perfectly posed figurines to go with it. If you were a kid of the 70's and 80's, these little ceramic creations were the mainstay of many homes during the holidays. My husband always gets a chuckle out of them suggesting they look nothing like any real time or place throughout history. They are very charming however. Anyway, each comes in a foam core box and fits in it in only one orientation. Having only a week to have these things up, my mind swirled…"Do I or don't I ?" An eye roll and an evening later accompanied by 45 trips up to the attic, they were all lit. Yeah! Fast forward a week later and they all needed to come down. Sigh. Putting them away haunted me for the week, but that time had arrived. Which box does the "Wagon Wheel Pinegrove" go into and what the hell is a Wagon Wheel Pinegrove anyway? Pulling the cords, playing puzzle with box after box, I began to think for a minute that burning the village down could be a quick fix. I played ACDC on my Ipod while doing this. Weird, I know. Then it was time to tackle the tree; 50,000 pine needles on the floor, all sticking into my socks. The vacuum sucked them up along with a couple of lego guys all while Miles barked at the vacuum the entire time. I did a victory dance because this time around, the old vacuum didn't clog! While doing this chore, two little figurines watched me. Each little figure was missing a leg. Each year, they hang out together on the mantle. Now let me say that these two little guys work for two VIP's. They are both great servants to great leaders. The first, a Shepard with two broken legs that I maimed when I was a kid, works for Jesus, keeping an eye on his flock. The other, Santa's head elf, which Pete dropped a few years back, hangs on to the shepard. Every year they hold each other up through the holidays; after all, what are good friends for? They happily hobbled into the red and green plastic storage box for another year. Maybe it's those two that I hear up in the attic all summer. The final push was upon me as I dragging the tree to the dump. This process is harder than an Ironman and child birth combined. Could someone tell me why I was not only the solitary woman at the dump, but the only woman lugging a tree off her car too? Now pine needles were everywhere. Despite the fact that the tree was on top of the car, the needles seemed to occupy the entire interior of the car. They were going down my shirt and in into my hair too. Oh yes, I do love the holidays. I came home drained but with a sense of relief that the holiday was packed up and I could really start the new year! I opened the fridge and celebrated( See photo below). Let me just say, I enjoyed every last bit of Christmas that I could sink my teeth into. I hope you do to.
Celebrating...Chrismas is put away!
I have the distinct joy of seeing horses in my backyard each day. Unlike their dutiful owners, I don't have to do anything to care for them. Every morning, I see them working, whether it be exercising the horses, cleaning, feeding or mending fences. It's a hard job that's never truly finished. But on this snowy morning around the new year, the work was rewarded. I looked out the window to see Kelly crossing the field on Cash. On such a beautiful morning, the picture of the mounted rider created the perfect scene. I grabbed my camera and ran outside. For a short while, her work became all play, and would probably recharge her for whatever duties would come along soon. Seeing the horses mahogany color created a beautiful contrast against the bright snow. For a minute, I felt jealous, not being able to personally experience the joy as she moved through the white powder. I would learn however, that the joy was also mine in the end as I am able to share the vision with you now. Live for every moment, but relish in the spectacular ones that you're afforded.
Today's blog is dedicated to a friend who loved to play on her horse throughout her childhood in Portland, CT. May this bring back warm memories.
I am not sure what (if any )resolutions I can conjure up for the new year. As for right now, the only clear resolution I have is to get to the end of the season of "Homeland" while sitting here in my bed on New Years Day. Usually, sitting idle makes me uneasy, but not today. 2012 was busier than I had ever expected it to be and I feel like a recharge is a good idea before I begin to take on 2013. According to Webster, a resolution is a formal expression of opinion or intention made; but still, I have no master plan for 2013. I will however be resolute in accepting whatever pitch comes my way. I get my advice from my four legged mutt, Miles. When a ball is thrown for him, he gives 100 percent to catch it. In my best effort to mimic him, whether life comes at me like a fast ball or a curve ball, I'll do my best to find that sweet spot.