Be the helicopter parent with the mostest

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Now that winter weather has finally set in, I’ve continued my daily walks with my dog, Bandit. Although he was neutered, he never got the memo, so it does look a little silly for such a macho dog to wear a green striped sweater that makes him look like his name should be Mr. Whiskers.

I’ve always treated family pets like fuzzy people, something my children picked up. Sometimes, that’s not good. On the master bathroom tub, I keep a large seashell for rinsing my hair. When the children were babies, I washed them with it as a daily reminder of baptism.

Yesterday I saw my daughter run through the house, seashell in hand. My sons sprinted behind her, and my maternal alarm rang. I vaulted up the stairs to see my daughter baptizing our kitten. I delivered the talk that, yes, Piki has a soul, but no, we don’t wash cats.

Situation changes everything.

My mother was perhaps the first helicopter parent; she carted me from ballet to piano to voice to Girl Scouts. At age eight, I remember telling my priest how stressed out I was. Today, many moms still want to give their kids ballet classes that cost $200 every two months. Taking kids to The Right Place enhances Yuppie mom cred.

But different cultures demand different skills. A recent article in the Yemen Times argues women shouldn’t drive cars because only a few have “serious errands, so…they waste money for nothing.” Maged Thabet Al-Kholidy, the article’s author, claims a woman “with a weak heart” fainted after a fender bender he witnessed.

Consider what would happen to your family if Mom couldn’t drive. Your family would probably die.

In our precarious economy, I predict survival will favor people capable of building networks and the community. Helicopter parenting in these conditions would consist of helping others, which costs nothing and teaches children stronger character than $200 ballet lessons.

Many helicopter parents wrongly associate intelligence with book learning, neglecting the work of Howard Gardner, who identified eight types of intelligence. Two are interpersonal–dealing with others–and intrapersonal–understanding yourself.

So start a resolution of teaching children ways to be smart you might have neglected before. During daily walks, take kids to pick up trash around the neighborhood, or bake cookies for the offices of community groups. My girlfriend Gracia Dudlicek takes her sons to the Humane Society to play with the animals.

If you’d like to hear more about what’s going on in the life of this Crazy Mom, feel free to friend me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.e.bailey.

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First printed Winter 2009, but seems more relevant today

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This image was...interesting, for many reasons.

You’ve heard our economic condition called “the Great Recession,” but I wonder if the Greatest Generation gets offended by our being presumptuous and self-indulgent enough to compare today’s economy to what they endured. Are you wearing cardboard in the soles of your shoes?

I write much about thriving through crisis, and I think one way is to realize how soft our lives today are. But there are many other ways to brighten this darkest part of the year.

First, remember you’re probably not busy. Telling people you’re busy might offend people who are.

How do you know if you’re busy? If you’re caring for a child with Down syndrome or a housebound parent, you’re busy. If you can watch TV for an hour, you’re not. So if you’re not, your life is better than you thought.

When I had four children under age 4, I felt I was serving a life sentence. I felt better when I learned you can be on the mountaintop for one facet of life but in the valley for another—for example, maybe you’re jobless, but your relationships are good.

No experiences go to waste unless they go unexamined. The longer I’m a teacher and parent, the more I realize life isn’t linear, events sequential. Rather, events are linked by memory and meaning.

A new professor recently approached me about her anxiety to guide each student to that “aha!” moment. I told her not to stress—she couldn’t maintain that anxiety for decades.

“You’re not just your students’ teacher for a semester,” I said. “You’ll be teaching them the rest of their lives.”

I remember reading Wordsworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey” when I was 20, but I didn’t get it until I was 30, when it moved me to tears. But how wrong Wordsworth was—passion only gains momentum with wisdom. Time without journey is meaningless.

Back to that new professor. Show the students their goal, what you want them to learn, I said. Show them a few ways to get there. Tell them to keep their minds open that other avenues might exist. Do your best, but realize only the students can journey to that truth.

Journeys are encoded into many religions. The three wise men journeyed to Jesus. Muslims undertake Hajj to Mecca.

Journeys aren’t supposed to be easy. If they were, the three wise men wouldn’t have followed a star; they would’ve teleported to Jesus–nothing resonant about that.

Parents, don’t despair with your children; undertake your journey with them at peace. Teachers, realize you may only teach your students one lesson—but it may be the one lesson they really need.

Amidst these holidays, may your journey begin.

Conquer your mind, conquer your run

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Ramesses resting after another bitchin' run.

 When you first start training, you’re often so busy counting minutes, your mind may not affect your performance. But before long, the messages you send yourself make the difference between running and giving up.

I taught interpersonal communication full time at Valparaiso University for 12 years, and students always had difficulty understanding a positive attitude isn’t enough, though it helps. To develop a mindset that’ll enable you to conquer running and other challenges, you often must confront unhappy relationships and patterns and work through them to positivity.

Before we confront mental barriers, we must first establish one understanding: Running is a badass sport. I love the saying that “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” The mere fact you’re running makes you a badass. That aside, here are common concerns No Boundaries runners express—and here are some solutions.

Concern: Running feels wrong or uncomfortable.

I came to the No Boundaries program a true beginner—I ran my first mile at age 41. At first, after a few strides, running felt unnatural. Raising my legs felt like raising concrete—seriously, they were numb.

Solution: Be assured that, as long as you’re running or jogging, what you’re doing is natural, and soon, you’ll realize, “Hey, this feels right.” Maybe running isn’t comfortable for you. That’s normal. Even—especially—veteran runners don’t feel comfortable while they run. They have good days and bad days, just like you.

I’d wanted to run long before my first NoBo team. I’d jog from one mailbox to the next, to the next—then give up because it felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know I’d quit just before my body started warming up.

When I first felt my heart thumping wildly in my chest, I stopped running for the day because I was afraid I was overexerting myself. Turns out I was so out of shape, I’d never felt my heart really work. I didn’t know my heart was supposed to do that. Now, feeling my heart pump and my lungs expand feels really good, and after a run, I often feel like I’ve had an hour-long massage.

When you run a 5K, here’s a pattern you might expect. For me, the first mile feels icky, but veteran runners reassure me this is because my body is warming up and shifting gears, just like a car. During the second mile, I’m thinking, “OK, I can do this.” The third mile is the payoff, the euphoria. This is when I think, “I could go two more miles”—but I remind myself I have dogs to walk and kids to cook for when I get home. I don’t have the luxury of napping.

Incidentally, when I run six miles, for example, this pattern remains, but it lengthens with the distance.

Concern: I can’t run as far as my coaches want me to run today.

Solution: Guaranteed, you can run longer than you think. Remind yourself that one day, you’ll look back and say, “Wow, I never would’ve thought it’d be so easy to run five minutes/five miles.”

It helps me to follow our training schedule during the week, then show up for group run on Saturday without looking at the schedule so I don’t know exactly how far we’ll run. I figure I’ll just do what everybody else is doing so by the time I learn how many supersets we’ll do, I can tell myself, “I’ve come this far. What’s running one more minute?”

About two months into your training program, if you’ve been faithful to the run/walk schedule, if somebody asks you to run an extra minute, you can. No big deal. In fact, you might try running through some walk minutes—having no brain of its own, your heart will pump just as fast as if you were walking, so you might as well.

Concern: My mind keeps telling me that I shouldn’t or can’t do this.

Solution: How do you know you can’t? Have you tried today? Keep your mind so busy, you don’t have time for negative messages. Run on a treadmill while you watch TV or read. Run with a buddy; I’m happy to run with any of you in the early morning—just facebook me, or e-mail me at profrbailey@aol.com, if you don’t mind my slowness. Take your pet. Take your cell phone—you should do this anyway, for safety—and call your mom/friend/somebody whose ear you’d like to breathe heavily into.

Of course, you may already have an MP3 player; keep it plugged in to your computer so it’s always charged when you need it. Play motivational music. When I get bored during a workout, I sing along and challenge myself to stay in tune.

Here’s some songs from my playlist—just suggestions, but enough to convince you I’m a weirdo. Whatever—it’s gotten me through four FleetFeet teams. I present these to you in the order I’d listen to them.

*A nice start is the Smiths’ Rubber Ring. The whole thing sounds so eerie, I know you’ll wonder why I’m recommending it. It’s worth listening to the entire song to hear the ending—an actual EVP, or recording of a ghost, with an extremely convincing message.

*Philadelphia Freedom—Elton John—a great singalong.

*Wichita Lineman—Glen Campbell—a palate cleanser.

*The Kinks—Do It Again. A great message: If you’re gonna change your life, do it now, or you never will. A must.

*Local H’s Bound for the Floor—Use your anger to inspire you to action—and everybody’s angry about something. A must.

*Lit—My Own Worst Enemy. I defy you not to howl along with the backup singers’ “A—ooo.”

*LL Cool J’s Mama Say Knock You Out. Silly, but a must if you’re a mama.

*Luscious Jackson’s Naked Eye. If you need to go slowly, fast-forward to this.

*Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me. If you’re running, you are cooler than he.

*They Might Be Giants—Birdhouse in Your Soul. Triumphant.

Post your own inspirational soundtrack on the NoBo facebook page, or leave your suggestions in a comment on my blog.

Concern: I’m embarrassed about how I look when I run.

Solution:  Wear your team T-shirt, or wear a shirt from a race you’ve run. Passersby won’t mess with a fact—that you’re wearing evidence you’re an athlete. I’ve never gotten jeers other than the rare honking everybody gets. When somebody honks at you, make sure you wave back. After all, our state’s reputation for Hoosier hospitality is at stake.

Many NoBos worry about the jiggle factor. I weighed 270 pounds when I first started running, and when friends and neighbors saw me run by, they were always encouraging and usually said, “I wish I could do that” or “I should do that.” Frankly, I’m proud that I’m plus-size and a runner. We plus-size runners are stronger than the regular-size athlete—let’s see them carry the equivalent of a 150-pound person for three miles. My body has brought four incredible people into the world—including the Region’s largest twins, who together weighed 17 pounds—and I’m proud of it.

Look around at the next group run, and you’ll see curves and cellulite on even the thinnest runners. So, feel comfortable to wear sleeveless shirts and shorts to the next group run. How will you look? Gorgeous. Just ask me; I’ll tell you.

You may want to invest in cute running clothes; FleetFeet does carry plus sizes. But if you’re going to wear mascara and makeup, make it waterproof. You may get teary-eyed from the wind and because you can’t believe how fabulous you are.

Remember: The average person still perceives running as a mysterious activity only the thin and fit can accomplish, so when passersby see you, they’re not thinking, “That person looks stupid”; they’re thinking, “Man, I could never do that, though I should try—someday.”

I’ve spent years in health clubs, so I assure you that true athletes don’t look down on the beginner; they think, “Good for that person. They’re trying to change their lives.” True athletes love their sport or game so much, they want to evangelize and share it with everyone. That’s the awesome thing about FleetFeet: The moment you join a NoBo team, you belong. You’re officially an athlete.

 Concern: I’m too old.

Solution: Go to any race, and you’ll see tons of older runners. Running is a natural activity; pharaohs in ancient Egypt had to prove they could rule every year, and they did this by hunting hippopotami—pro hunters claim they’re the hardest animal to kill—and by running in the desert (best features: crazy-hot temperatures, scorpions, and sand). Pharaohs were understandably not pumped to lose all their sweet pyramids, so there are many records of pharaohs accomplishing remarkable runs into their 90s.

Concern: I’m so slow. It drives me crazy to start running with the team and see them vanish over the hills and leave me alone.

Solution: As you’ve probably seen, I’m an excruciatingly slow runner—I’ve heard my speed described as a “shamble”—though I’m sure it was meant in the sexiest possible way–so I know how disheartening and depressing this is.

When everyone vanishes is a good time to make cell phone calls and listen to your favorite music. Again, feel free to call me and train with me—if I’m not too slow for you! This situation is also a great chance to pay attention to form, something you wouldn’t necessarily do if you were gabbing with a bunch of people.

Multitasking is another fantastic way to make the miles melt under your feet. I carry a palm-sized notepad with meditation prompts. Thinking through these prompts usually occupies a couple miles for me. The beauty of meditating while running is that, when you’re done, you can feel doubly proud of everything you’ve accomplished.

Here are some meditation prompts; feel welcome to add your own—and let me know. I’ll add them to my blog, where they can inspire future runners.

Sunset over rural Tuscany--time is the element that makes many things great.

To answer the below questions, I sometimes bring a cell phone with me and record my answers. Then, when I return, I play back the recording and write down the answers.

Feel free to add your own positive thoughts as a comment.

  1. Count your blessings.
  2. Now, thank God for your blessings.
  3. Pray for people who need help. (Note to readers: In your notepad, you can write a list of prayer intentions so you can remember them day after day.)
  4. What will you eat the rest of the day? Make it healthy.
  5. What will you accomplish the rest of the day? Make it positive.
  6. What do you need to accomplish tomorrow?
  7. Check your body. What parts of your body are unnecessarily tense? Relax them.
  8. Focus on your form and breathing.
  9. Notice the world around you. Are the birds singing? Trees budding? What’s beautiful? Enjoy the silence.
  10. (Note to readers: On my notepad, I write my goals. Reviewing them daily keeps me accountable. I ask myself how I can improve them and how I’ve already accomplished them.)
  11. How can I be compassionate to everyone I meet? Who particularly needs my compassion?
  12. What is my mission in life? How can I accomplish it?
  13. If the timing is appropriate, do stretches while you run.
  14. Do I harbor negative feelings about a person or event that can be dealt with more constructively? How?

Guest post for prettycity.com

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Folks, I was honored that the fabulous people at prettycity invited me to do a guest post.

In junior high, I was mercilessly bullied because I had acne and wore braces and glasses with near-coke-bottle lenses. It was torture just to walk on the bus or walk down the hall because of the cruel things kids would say to me. (They would bark, too. I mean–seriously?)

I was fortunate to undergo a dramatic physical transformation, but I still definitely believe everyone is beautiful and deserves to feel that way. Besides, as you know by now, I’m as girly girl as can be!

So, I’m excited about the mission of everybody at prettycity.com. Check out my guest blog at http://blog.prettycity.com/carolyn/2011/05/10/glam-guest-post-mamas-mobile-spa/, and look around while you’re there. I guarantee you’ll brighten your day!

(Cr)appy Mother’s Day?

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Happy Mother's Day

This Mother’s Day, let’s encourage women not to become mothers until they are completely ready.

During my seventies childhood, my mom stayed home, and my dad worked two jobs to provide for us and our future. He worked longer hours than my mother, and he was justifiably proud of his achievements.

Today, I sometimes wonder if men use working wives as an excuse to do less work—most statistics show men do only marginally more housework than their fathers.

Which means Millennial Mom is worse off than 1950s Mom. Because she’s still the default parent, Millennial Mom’s to-do list is incredibly longer. Kids do more homework today and attend more sports practices than in the 1950s. Today, Millennial Mom has 529 plans and 3-D scrapbooks to maintain—yet she does it around ten hours a day in the office, while dads play videogames.

If I sound like a feminist, I appreciate the compliment. If you believe in marrying for love, you’re a feminist too—the romantic ideal for Ancient Greeks was homosexual. After all, men and women had nothing in common. Women had few rights, little education. Men lived outside the home; women lived inside.

Today, the solution is simple, but it starts young. Women: If a man won’t practice safe sex with you, he doesn’t value you. Be furious; walk out–there’s nothing sexy about sex with someone who won’t protect you. If you don’t think pregnancy will happen in just one encounter, you’re wrong. My first two sons were conceived on the first try; the next “first try” resulted in twins.

Don’t squander your precious life on a man who won’t work harder than you and take pride in treating you like a queen. If your man isn’t working harder than you (that is, valuing you), go on strike. If there’s a pattern of his abusing your hard work, dump him. The hardest worker is in control.

Let’s show youths how grueling parenting is. Throw infant simulators in the trash; they dehumanize human babies. As an inexperienced mom, my first son’s cries deeply distressed me; knowing a flesh-and-blood human was suffering made me work harder to comfort him. 

Instead, let’s make all middle- and high-school students, under professional supervision, provide hands-on help to single parents–eight hours a day, every day, for twelve weeks, at least.

And let’s be conscientious about the messages we send: If we raised young women’s societal status to equal young men’s, teenage pregnancy rates would plummet.

Let’s create a new normal. Last year, my son’s second-grade teacher gave birth, and my kids were trying to determine how old she was.

“I think she’s twenty-six,” Jake volunteered.

Josh laughed. “Silly, women in their twenties can’t have babies.”

And that was when we had our first chat.

Controlling your thoughts can lead to a happier, more productive life

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This guy is either worrying about the bathroom habits of the bird or whether that fabric will fall.

When I was little, I could be alone in a crowded car. I’d stare out the window, dream of Tarzan, and be happy.

Today, I’m driving my four kids to Southlake Children’s Choir rehearsal. On the radio is classical music—what tiny Max calls “kitty running music” because it reminds him of a cat running on piano keys.

But I can’t hear that cat. The kids are too loud. Silence doesn’t compute for them: Born less than four years apart, none knows what it means to be alone.

I clear my throat. “Everybody, I’m not mad, but it’s important to be your own best friend. Sometimes it’s nice just to be quiet and think.”

In the rearview mirror, four puzzled blond heads stared at me. I tried again. “For the next five minutes, we’re not going to say anything. Got it?”

The heads nodded. “Great,” I said. “Ready? Go.”

Madeline’s hand shot up.

“Madeline, you’re not even supposed to ask questions,” I said.

Max tapped my shoulder. “Un, deux, trois,” he proclaimed, knowing he couldn’t get in trouble for practicing his French.

“Good job,” I said. “OK, everybody. Look out the windows at the budding trees; make up an imaginary world. But don’t talk.”

Again, the four heads nodded. And–silence.

Ten seconds passed. Twenty, thirty. Triumph.

And then. “Did I win the game?” Madeline asked.

I know I didn’t.

Americans don’t like silence, alone or in groups. On first dates, if quiet happens, we panic and figure the night’s a disaster. But silence could be a compliment that the other person is so comfortable, he doesn’t need to talk.

I thought I understood the power of the mind until I started running. On my first No Boundaries team at FleetFeet in Schererville, our beginning session consisted of running one minute and walking three. That first minute running was the longest of my life.

My second team started practicing about four months later. Now I couldn’t run one minute—I could run an hour. I started the run one/walk three sequence with my original mentor, Tracy Govert of Crown Point. She blew the whistle to start the minute, and then, seconds later, she blew the whistle to end it. The whole time, we were chatting.

“I’m sorry for distracting you,” I said. “That wasn’t a minute.”

Tracy showed me her running watch. “Yes, it was. It’s all in your head.”

She’d often said that, but I’d always dismissed it as rah-rah coach-y talk. Finally, I got it, and the statement’s reality stunned me: My attitude could deeply distort my perception of time. Now, whenever I run or drive a long distance, I bring a palm-sized notepad with lists of thoughts to examine, like counting my blessings. If I don’t, there’s danger my thoughts will turn negative.

The List

I spent 12 years teaching Interpersonal Communication—full time—at Valparaiso University, and I often used a textbook that cited a statistic that 90 percent of our thoughts are negative. The first time I read this, I considered this the hugest pile of poop, the biggest generalization—until I started monitoring my self-talk, which consisted of items like:

Can the driver in front of me go any slower? I’m so tired. I’ll never get the house picked up by the end of the day.

Stuff like that. I realized I was lucky if only 90 percent of my thoughts were negative. Now I listen to the messages I send myself and talk back. My all-purpose response is to remind myself that dwelling on the negative won’t make the day any easier: Negativity sucks away your energy, and I need all the energy I can get.

Anyway, I’m a very slooooow runner, and it’s tough to see everybody else taking off and leaving me behind. It might take me an hour to cover a distance that another runner would cover in fifteen minutes.

To keep my mind from working against me, I developed this list. I wrote it into a palm-sized notepad, and I carry it with me while I run to keep my mind busy. If you think the run will seem fast, it will; if you think it’ll seem slow, it’ll be slow.

To answer the below questions, I sometimes bring a cell phone with me and record my answers. Then, when I return, I play back the recording and write down the answers.

Feel free to add your own positive thoughts as a comment.

  1. Count your blessings.
  2. Now, thank God for your blessings.
  3. Pray for people who need help. (Note to readers: In your notepad, you can write a list of prayer intentions so you can remember them day after day.)
  4. What will you eat the rest of the day? Make it healthy.
  5. What will you accomplish the rest of the day? Make it positive.
  6. What do you need to accomplish tomorrow?
  7. Check your body. What parts of your body are unnecessarily tense? Relax them.
  8. Focus on your form and breathing.
  9. Notice the world around you. Are the birds singing? Trees budding? What’s beautiful? Enjoy the silence.
  10. (Note to readers: On my notepad, I write my goals. Reviewing them daily keeps me accountable. I ask myself how I can improve them and how I’ve already accomplished them.)
  11. How can I be compassionate to everyone I meet? Who particularly needs my compassion?
  12. What is my mission in life? How can I accomplish it?
  13. If the timing is appropriate, do stretches while you run.
  14. Do I harbor negative feelings about a person or event that can be dealt with more constructively? How?