Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Value Tree on Amazon

The Value Tree: Cultivating Values for Happiness and Success and its companion book, The Value Tree Journal, is finally published and available on Amazon. Finally. These books grew out of the value-based curriculum I developed over the years while homeschooling Alex and Izzy. My kids love Mommy School, and most sessions begin with a lesson on values. There are art projects, roleplaying exercises, and brainstorming scenarios to reinforce the value. The Journal follows the textbook, with writing exercises which allow the children to reflect and record how they are living their values in daily life. If you are homeschooling your kids, or want to supplement their study of values, you might consider including these books in your lessons.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mile 31

A couple weeks ago, I ran an ultra with a friend of ours. He ran to raise money for The Baby Alex Foundation, and completed what would be his longest run to date, a 50K, 31 miles. He sent me an email before the race which read, "By the way, mile 31 is for Alex." At the start of the race, he pulled out a card with 31 miles and 31 names. He ran each mile for someone else. "There he is," he said, pointing to mile 31. Another friend of mine ran across the USA a few years ago, entirely alone. He spent his solitude praying for those in need, praying for himself, and meditating on life. People think I am a little nuts when my answer to so many of life's challenges is running. "You need to run," I tell people who come to me with problems. And if they are already running, I revise my statement, "You need to run farther." Running not only lowers the stress hormone in the brain, burns unwanted fat and calories, brings fresh air and new sights and sounds to our senses, but it also provides us with the time and mental space to meditate on our lives, the people we love, the mistakes we have made, and the future we hope to create. And running a few miles for someone else is a form of love. I suffer for you, because I love you, a sentiment repeated countless times in our world religions. Running is my religion, and while there is some suffering sometimes, it is mostly joyful and offers a time of reflection. I was running 50 miles that day a few weeks ago, and it meant running loops around a lake. It was a brutal day, cold and windy, like the rest of the year. I dedicated my loops to a few of the people in my life. One of those loops was for Izzy, who had broken into tears a few days earlier. "I wish I never had a brother with brain damage. I wish I didn't have to pry his lefty fist open to hold his hand. Why do I have to have a brother with brain damage?" She was so angry. I knew Izzy held intense emotions about Alex, but she had not yet expressed them to me in this way. We talked it out, and when she went back downstairs to play I went into my closet and cried. I ran about 8 miles for her at the ultra. I ran the next to last loop for Alex, and I imagined him and Izzy running with me. I tried to picture him running an even stride and his left arm as strong as his right, but that was incredibly difficult. For some reason, I just couldn't make the picture right. His arm was smaller and his limp was still there, but I also saw his smiling face, his mussy, sandy blond curls. He and Izzy and I ran together. I was slow, and they, not quite adults, kept my weary pace on Utah's dusty trails. Pure happiness. There were 3 more loops of the ultra which I dedicated to others in my life, and then the final loop, which I gave to myself. Once my heart rate rises comfortably, and the noise of everyday life dies down in my head, I enter a deeper meditative state when I run. The farther I run, the deeper I meditate. At some point, I am aware only of the rhythm of my feet and the trails around me, and eventually, I am ready to stop, return home and kiss the blondy curls and little toes sleeping soundly in their beds. How do I make the most of my life, whatever it may be, whatever mistakes have been made-how do I make every moment meaningful? It is amazing how clear the answers become after a few miles of solitude.