Keeping the End in Mind — Lessons on Motherhood from the Gym

iStock_000015205697XSmallThe middle aged lady snuck in late to the weightlifting class.  Obviously a newcomer, she tried to hide in the back, but the class was completely full.  A nice person in the back directed her to the front where there was the last open space between me and the mirrored wall and kindly fitted her with the lightest of the weights on a barbell.  I helped position her riser and showed her how to grab the apparatus with her trembling and ring-less hands.

She wore a long-sleeved everyday shirt and wore baggy sweatpants over her grannies which kept peeking out with every bend of her body which, though not overweight, carried not one extra ounce of muscle.  Gray roots belied her tired blond which was pulled back into a pony tail with a scrunchy.  She had a kind smile and kept apologizing for her very presence.  “I’m sorry to bother you,” she repeated, as I gave her tips on form while the class continued with various weightlifting drills to music.

Recent divorcee?  Midlife crisis?  I wondered, as she began to exercise, perhaps for the first time in 30 years.  Or ever.  She responded surprisingly well to the instructor’s cues.

“I bet you were an athlete growing up, weren’t you?” I asked during one transition between sets, partly to encourage her but mostly out of curiosity.

“No, I was always a wimp,” she laughed through her Tootsie glasses.  (And if you just understood what I meant by that, then you are almost as old as she is).

I bet her kids and husband — ex- or not — never helped her get in touch with her inner athlete.  You go, girl!

Although she tired easily and could not make every repetition, she didn’t quit.  When the instructor called for increasing of weights for certain muscle groups, I encouraged her to keep her barbell as is…at 2.5 pounds on each end.

“Don’t want you to get injured,” I said, but I also didn’t want her to get discouraged. It’s so easy to go too hard on the first day, then never come back.

Somehow, the topic of pie crust came from the instructor on the mike who asked for a show of hands if anyone had actually made it from scratch.

This lady raised her hand.

I bet she spent all her life giving of herself to her family, always putting herself last.  She stayed up late each night doing laundry and making pie crusts from scratch, for goodness’ sake!

I pictured her, maybe in one or two more years, showing the results of her consistent efforts at the gym — new definitions on her arms, abs, and thighs.  I pictured her with a cute, updated haircut with color that better matched her skin tone.  I also pictured her in a more form-fitting and revealing athletic outfit from lululemon like the many regulars in the class.  I pictured her a confident woman, an empty-nester, enjoying life and contributing to society in ways she could not while her kids were little.  I saw her whole and complete.

And that’s when it dawned on me — God pictures us whole and complete already, too.  Not saying that being athletic and in shape is the definition of being whole, but He sees us already as the complete person He has meant for us to become all along.

He took a stuttering, bumbling, hot-tempered man like Moses and an overly-spontaneous fisherman like Peter and used them to change history. The Lord always kept the end in mind as he patiently worked with them. The same God can also take a fumbling, stressed out, insecure, and imperfect mom like me and make something out of my life, because He already has the end in mind.  God already sees in me a confident and competent mother to my children.  Maybe not a Tiger Mom, but at least a Panda Mom.

“Thank you!  I’m coming back on Thursday,” she said enthusiastically as the class ended.

I sure hope so.  You have no idea how much you encourage me today, so thank YOU.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

- Philippians 3:14

4th Grade is Too Late To Start a Sport. Seriously?!

Young Boys In Baseball TeamMy son Josh signed up to play Pony League baseball in fourth grade.  His best friend from church, Sammy, talked him into it.  Sammy, a very athletic child, had already been playing baseball for a few seasons.  Josh, on the other hand, was brand new to the game.  It quickly became apparent that at age 9, it was much too late to start a new sport.

As immigrant children, neither David nor I were familiar with this all-American subculture of baseball.  We naively signed him up and showed up at the first practice at the nearby field, Josh dressed in his everyday shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers from Target.  We immediately realized that he was completely in the wrong attire.  All the kids were wearing baseball pants, jock straps (we presume), and cleats.

The coaches called for the practice to begin.  The kids all seemed to know what to do and where to go for each drill, whether it was catching, throwing, or batting.  Josh stood in the middle of the crowd looking bewildered.  If it wasn’t for his buddy Sammy, he would have been completely lost.

Josh kept getting singled out to go off to the side with an assistant coach to work on his basic skills, none of which he had developed prior to joining the team.  I think he even had to show Josh how to drink from the sports bottle and to spit.  Josh knew nothing.  Although some kids would be spurred on to work harder through such individual attention, Josh only felt embarrassed and discouraged.

As parents, we were also lacking in experience.  We realized quickly that we were as much of a novice as our son.  All the parents were sitting comfortably in their deluxe folding chairs outfitted with cup holders, umbrellas, magazine racks, and clip boards for keeping stats.  I think some models even came with a barbecue grill.  Meanwhile, David and I sat on the unforgiving bleacher bench, roasting in the sun, fanning ourselves with the rule book — rules, mind you, for parental behavior during games.

When I was 9 years old and living in New York, I walked to the nearby ice skating rink and fell in love with figure skating.  My parents signed me up and watched me for the first few lessons, but thereafter sent me and my sister off on our own.  I kept taking my classes, working hard and advancing to the next level every few months, and was just beginning to compete when we moved to California.  The nearest ice skating rink was then a 30-minute drive away, so when Mother got tired of that drive, I was done with my sport.  It was fun while it lasted, and it taught me valuable life lessons in setting goals and achieving results, but I was always aware that I was not Olympic material.  And that was totally okay.

Recently, my friends tried to sign up their two kids, ages 10 and 13, with a private tennis coach.  To their dismay, they were told that there was “nothing he could do” with the older child.  “But there is still a chance I could train your 10-year old at this point.” The coach was assuming that my friends were thinking Wimbledon, but they were only hoping that their kids would get some exercise outdoors instead of playing video games all day.

What kind of a society is this when we cannot start a new sport mid-childhood?

Whatever happened to playing a sport for fun, exercise, and camaraderie?

Josh finished off that baseball season and didn’t pursue that sport any further.  Some of the best players in the league continued on to the All-Stars then to the travel league, never taking a break year-round.  Some of them are probably playing on their high school teams now, hoping for college scholarships and perhaps even major league contracts.  Josh now takes casual tennis lessons and resists joining the competitive tennis league, perhaps due to his less-than-stellar experience with team baseball.  His dad and I wish that he were a little more competitive, but we are certain that tennis will serve him well throughout his life for good fun and exercise.

I just wish that society looked at organized sports that way.

I’m Done With My Minivan. Now What?

I'm following my minivan being towed by a tow truck.  It was a weird sight to behold.

I’m following my minivan being towed by a tow truck. It was a weird sight to behold.

My minivan is starting to show its age.  It is 7 years old now — that’s 49 in car years — and needing more love and care than I prefer to give to a middle aged car.  I drove another minivan prior to this one, so I have officially been a minivan mom for over a decade.  It just might be time to move on.

But now what?

I enlisted my facebook friends for some input on what type of car I should graduate up to.  SUV?  Sedan? The answers were as varied as my friends on facebook.

First off, I had to immediately disqualify Bill’s input, “I hear that the Partridge Family bus is for sale,” even though that would have been very groovy.  Also, I had to laugh with young mom Meredith who chimed, “We get to graduate someday??? Wahoo!”  In only about 20 years, Meredith.

Brian and Polly suggested big trucks, F-150 and Tahoe.  I’m happy for them both, but I don’t think I’m really a big truck kind of a girl.  Er, mom.

A few moms celebrated their sedans, such as Lorie, Anne, Jessilyn, and Felix’s wife.  I’m sure they appreciate the gas mileage of these cars as compared to the gas-guzzling minivans.  And my friend Ally, mom of two teenagers, enthusiastically replied, “MINI Cooper!”  As much as I think MINI Coopers are really cute and zippy (which describes Ally perfectly), it is so small and low to the ground.  You know how it is, minivan moms — once you get a taste of riding high and mighty in that minivan, you never go back down.

Several folks like Jane and Amy went to a crossover sedan/minivan, such as Honda Fit and Mazda 5.  However, dad Shawn says, “When our kids got out of child seats, we sold our minivan and I said we’d never get one again. We got a Mazda 5 which is like a cross between a minivan and station wagon, and we loved it, but it was totaled when we were rear ended by a hit and run driver. We looked at everything and every kind of vehicle. In the end, what did we get? You guessed it, a minivan. The Mazda 5 just didn’t have the extra space like a minivan does, and we missed that.”

Likewise, my friend Erin added, “Prius V wagon. We still have the minivan, but it’s our second car and I love it.” Hmmm…crossovers might be best, then, as a second car.  I need to find myself a first car right now.  And is it just me or do some of these crossovers look like minivans that were in the dryer too long?

Not surprisingly, SUVs got the most votes.  Kristin, who got a Toyota RAV4, claims, “I felt liberated…like a ‘person’ again!” I get you, Kristin.  Both Melissa and Gayle love their Honda Pilot, and Wendy and Karen adore their Kia Sportage.  (Evidently, Kias are addicting or at least hereditary, because both Wendy’s and Karen’s daughters drive Kia Soul, aka “the hamster car”).  Laura loves her “MDX…roomy like a van, seats 7 but drives like a car.”  Diana drives a mid-size SUV and “loving it!!!” while Betsy swears that her Lexus RX is the “best car we’ve ever had.” Christy never did minivans and also doesn’t like sedans but prefers her CX-9.

I’m making a list of the desired features of my next car:

  • Roomy
  • Extra row of seats for more passengers
  • High ceiling
  • Lots of trunk space
  • Leather seats
  • Sliding side doors

Hmmmm…

It’s starting to sound a lot like a minivan.  Maybe I should keep my Odyssey after all.

What do you recommend?  And what type of car did you move up to after your minivan days were over?  Please comment below and help out this poor Panda Mom!

My Daughter Won’t Someday Be Wearing My Wedding Gown, And It’s Okay.

20130508-212042.jpgI saw this wedding dress at the laundromat, professionally cleaned and encased in a box, taxidermy-like, preserving the memories of that beautiful day for the bride to whom this belongs.  Maybe she hopes to someday have a daughter who will be wearing this dress on her own wedding day.  Or maybe she just couldn’t part with the dress she paid so much money for, only to wear once.

I do know one thing for sure: my daughter won’t be wearing the dress I wore on my wedding day!

Like any bride, the first thing I did after David and I got engaged was to go find a wedding dress.  I went to several places and fell in love with this one.  WeddingIt had just the right amount of lace with a long train which I could hook up at several strategic places to make it a normal floor-length dress for the reception afterwards.  After I had already made up my mind, I saw that same dress featured in a bride magazine.  I knew I had found a gem.

It was rather pricey, of course — $1600, and that was many years ago.  But I only paid $400 for it.  Why?  Because I rented it!  I was the first one to wear that particular dress, so it was brand new.  They fitted the dress to my size, and I had a beautiful time at the wedding knowing that I had saved a ton of money…er, that I had married the greatest guy in the world!  After we came home from the honeymoon, I simply returned the dress back to the store.  No cleaning it, packing it, or storing it.  It never even crossed my mind that I might someday have a daughter who might wear that dress on her wedding day.

My friend Jane actually did wear her mother’s wedding gown when she got married.  It was a simple but elegant dress that fit both Jane and her mother perfectly.  They were both about the same height and size on each of their wedding day, so the seamstress had little work to do.  The hem was a bit dirty, however, due to the rain on the day that Jane’s parents got married.  Back in the day, they didn’t professionally clean and box wedding dresses like they do now.  The little bit of muddy stain at the hem actually made it more authentic, though, bringing a bit of historical significance to Jane and Steve’s special day.

My daughter Meg is only 12 years old, so I don’t need to be thinking about her wedding dress anytime soon, but seeing the boxed dress made me think: would Meg have worn my dress if I still had it?  Knowing her unique taste in fashion, she probably would have refused.  I mean, I think my dress was in wonderful taste, but it’s not the trend now and certainly won’t be in 10 or 15 years.  Besides, she is already three inches taller than me and proportionately larger than me all around.  The seamstress can only do so much magic on a piece of fabric already cut to size.

I’m sort of glad that we won’t someday be having that awkward conversation between a bride and her mother:

“But honey, don’t you want to wear my dress?  It would be so special for your father and me.”

“Mom, this dress is so, so…dated.”

“I’m sure we can spruce it up a bit.  Wear a different veil, add a necklace.”

“It’s just not me, mom.”

“You know, all my life I have given to you over and over again.  The least you could do for me is to wear this darn dress on one single day of your life.”

…and so on.

Yeah, it was best that I rented my wedding dress.  I can just enjoy the photos and relish the memories.  And no guilt trip for my daughter Meg!

Anybody out there also wear your mother’s wedding dress?  Anyone have your dress stored securely for your daughter someday?