I’m So Grateful For My Son
I have a lot to be grateful for in my life. As we head into Mother’s Day weekend I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be the mother of two brilliant boys. However this post is about my baby who turns 19 today. All parents will say, “Where did the time go?” and wish to turn back the clock. How is it possible that the cute little cherub who completed our family is 19 years old? So, while I miss my little boy I realize how lucky I have been to be present in his life and experience all of the changes with him.
I am excited because our family is together on his birthday. Not only are we celebrating the start of Keaton’s last year as a teenager and Mother’s Day, but we are in Beloit, Wisconsin for Rikley’s college graduation. So, I’m grateful that we get to be with our baby on his 19th birthday to celebrate him. Keaton, we would have missed out on so much joy in our lives without you. You have given me so much to be grateful for. Happy Birthday!
I am grateful for this baby who captured my heart on the 12th of May and slept in my arms all sweet and warm.
I am grateful for this baby with the dimple on his cheek and a spark in his eye.
I am grateful for this toddler whose laughter was frequent and filled our home with beautiful noise.
I am grateful for this happy little boy so full of humor and positive energy who loved to be silly.
I am grateful for this boy who adapted to change with ease and was eager to try new things.
I am grateful for all the fun moments we’ve shared that led to the beautiful memories I cherish.
I am grateful for every hug I received from this strong and lovable kid.
I am grateful for this competitive and skillful athlete whom I have been blessed to watch and call my son.
I am grateful for this secure and wise young man who loves his family.
I am grateful for this son of mine who grew into an ambitious, admirable and compassionate man. As I reflect back through the years watching him grow and change into the remarkable and confident person he is today, my heart is full.
Keaton, this is one of my favorite birthday pictures of you. It was your second birthday and you were so excited for your cake. You couldn’t wait to blow out the candles and once you did we had to relight them so you could do it again and again. Thank you for all the fun memories that I will hold onto forever.
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Live With Vitality
I want to share with you my 5 steps on how to live with vitality. However, first I’ll tell you a story. In February as I stepped off a plane the lady in front of me struggled to get seated into the waiting wheelchair. When she finally got herself turned around and sat down she looked up at me and, with a heavy sigh, said, “Don’t get old. Die young!” I tried to tell her that my intention was to live well, strong and vital until 100 (maybe even longer). She responded with, “That’s what I thought.” The thing is, she didn’t look that old. I don’t think she was more than ten years my senior, but I can assume that her choices have been different.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to avoid her pain and despair if we choose to live with vitality. Follow my 5 steps to living with vitality and let’s see what happens. Are you in?
Looking out over the Grand Canyon.
Several years ago I became intrigued with the Blue Zones while watching an episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dan Buettner was on the show sharing the research behind his new book, Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He studied five areas in the world with higher than average centenarians, areas unrelated geographically. Buettner concluded that there are nine common themes that contribute to longer lives, regardless of where one lived. As you can see these five Blue Zones are located in four different continents.
Becoming A Centenarian
Each region has several lifestyle components in common that Buettner has identified as contributing factors to longevity. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least ten good years to our life and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely. These lifestyle choices include what the inhabitants choose to eat, how much physical activity they get, how they socialize, how they handle stress, their connection to a community and their purpose in life, all of which influences their quality of life and wellness. As a result of his research he identified nine lessons for longevity:
- Move Naturally; be active without having to think about it.
- Hara Hachi Bu; painlessly cut calories by 20%.
- Plant Slant; avoid meat and processed foods.
- Grapes of Life; drink red wine (in moderation).
- Purpose Now; take time to see the big picture
- Down Shift; take Time to relieve stress.
- Belong; participate in a spiritual community.
- Loved Ones First; make family a priority
- Right Tribe; be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values
A trail marker keeps us on course during a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
5 Steps on How to Live With Vitality
After reading Buettner’s book Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, I consolidated the lessons into 5 steps on how to live with vitality.
Focus, Nourish, Energize, Recharge & Relax, and Regroup
First, find your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates or inspires you. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have a “why”, a destination, or ambition to your life. You can’t live with vitality without happiness.
For 18 years my “why” was to take care of my family. From making breakfast, packing lunches, planning menus, buying groceries and other necessaries, laundry, house cleaning, carpooling, doctors’ appointments, managing schedules and the list goes on. My purpose was to be a stay at home mom. I loved it and I am so thankful that I was able to focus my energy and time to this role. Since both children are now in college I am finding a new purpose with my blog and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Juniper tree at Guano Point in the Grand Canyon West
Secondly, eat to live. Replenish your body with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of fresh vegetables. Cut out the heavily processed foods. Michael Polan, author of Food Rules, calls those products “edible food-like substances.” Polan’s advice is “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
I like to think that with every meal I have the opportunity to nourish my mind, heart, and body or deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive. Sharing this knowledge with others motivates me to continue to learn and experiment.
Thirdly, make room for activity each day. It can be a 30 minute brisk walk, taking the stairs a little faster, a yoga session…something that makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you break a sweat. To have more energy you need to energize with exercise. For many of the Blue Zone inhabitants exercise is part of their daily life. They don’t spend an hour at the gym or train for marathons. They tend gardens, herd goats, or go on nature hikes.
For me, exercise includes trail running, hiking, skiing, yoga, and walking my dog. I also know that as soon as I become sedentary I have more headaches, shoulder and neck pain. Without exercise, I get the blues and brain fog. My goals for leading an active lifestyle are not just to keep my body in shape now. It’s so I will maintain my mobility, balance and strength as I age.
mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon
4. Re-CHARGE AND RELAX
Next, take time to unwind and have fun. Most of us live with some degree of stress in our lives. Stress causes inflammation which is a contributor to many diseases. For that reason it is important to find healthy ways to de-stress. This is done by taking time for yourself. Find things that you enjoy doing that help you unwind like reading, engaging in a hobby, or taking a bath.
I’ve been exploring meditation. There is a lot research that credits meditation with a number of health benefits from reducing inflammation and curbing pain to improving mood and dropping blood pressure. I’m still in the exploration and learning phases of meditation. Finding a quiet distraction free space is a challenge as I’m living with three dogs right now. This morning as I tried to find my zen one dog was barking at cars, another wanted to sit in my lap and the third nudged in close begging for a scratch behind the ears.
Brown Mountain and Lake of the Woods; Southern Oregon
Finally, connect with others and cultivate relationships. This final step encompasses family, friends and community. Love, support and social activity are vital to our emotional health. They also help to reduce stress and therefore health problems associated with high stress levels. Stress can trigger migraines, body aches, and weaken the immune system. Persistent stress, when untreated, can lead to heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes according to an article written by Jancee Dunn in a special edition of TIME called MINDFULNESS the new science of health and happiness.
With our move to Bend I will need to stay connected to my friends while building new friendships. In the past our boys were a forcing function in meeting new people and being connected to a community. We established friendships under umbrellas on the sidelines of soccer games, in the bleachers at lacrosse games, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, playdates and school programs. I will need to find other ways to meet people through joining similar interest groups. It won’t be easy for this introvert. I will have to face the challenge and step outside of my comfort zone.
Grand Canyon West Arizona
You now know that my intention is to live with vitality until I’m 100 years old. Or, at least live as close to 100 as I can feeling strong, well, and happy. In other words, vital. I won’t get there by accident. It is a challenge I have embraced, and I must live every day with the intention of taking care of myself. T
Consequently, this means making choices that support my current health and will provide me with long-term health benefits. Following my 5 steps on how to live with vitality will help guide me along this path. My hope is that it will help you as well.
What are you doing to stay healthy and strong? Which of these steps are part of your life? Is there something that you struggle with? Please leave a comment below.
When children are young the focus of their birthday is on the party with friends; invitations, theme, games, decorations, cake, gifts….. And maybe a separate celebration with family. I always tried to make my boys feel special on their birthdays, but a lot of work went into the celebration.
When children get older and celebrate their birthday away from you it’s different. For me, I get more reflective and sentimental about their life. I realize how much my life was enriched by them, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. That’s what I’m doing today on my first baby’s 22nd birthday. He is far away, but he is very present in my heart and mind.
This post is in his honor, but also for all the moms out there who are missing their children.
Cheers to My Son on His Birthday
Cheers to this day, January 31st, the day when I became a mom. It’s the day when my life was changed beyond my comprehension and in ways I could not believe possible.
Cheers to this tiny baby whose light head rested softly in the space between my neck and shoulder.
Cheers to this baby who snuggled in my arms and cried when I put him down.
Cheers to this baby who climbed before he could walk and who started walking at ten months old never to slow down again.
Cheers to this toddler who moved ever so quickly and whose hugs were given on a quick flyby as he chased after another adventure.
Cheers to this little boy who transitioned seamlessly when we moved to England. Cheers to this little boy who, without hesitation, let go of my hand to join a new group of classmates.
Cheers to this boy who learned to read and comprehend math so easily. Cheers to this same boy who loved baseball and soccer and always checked to make sure I was watching.
Cheers to this boys who cultivated strong friendships, loved his family and was a positive role model for his brother.
Cheers to this boy who embraced life with vigor and excitement and who played with such passion.
Cheers to this kid who had more than his fair share of scrapes and bruises. Cheers to this kid who announced so valiantly that he thought it was time to make yet another trip to the ER to stitch up the newest gash in his skin.
Cheers to this teenager who shares my love of skiing and who races down the slopes while flying, twisting and turning off jumps.
Cheers to this young man who has compassion for others and deep loyalty to his teams.
Cheers to this young man who graduated from high school with high respect from his teachers, family and friends.
Cheers to this young man who left home to pursue a higher education and continue his passion for playing soccer and lacrosse.
Cheers to this man who grew up much too fast and will graduate this spring with a degree in Physics and Math.
Cheers to this man whose hugs are now longer and stronger than ever.
Cheers to this man whose sense of humor warms my heart because it is so reminiscent of his grandfather’s.
Cheers to this man who will always be my little boy, full of spirit and action, love and dreams!
Happy birthday, Rikley, as you turn 22 I know your future is as bright as you. Always know that you are loved beyond measure and my pride for you is monumental. Thank you for all the joy and memories you have blessed my life with.
PS. Remember to call home.
As the mother of two boys I’ve had two fears. The first is for their safety as they fearlessly tackled physical challenges. If you have boys you know what I’m talking about. They’ll climb on counters and jump off, luge on a skateboard down a steep neighborhood road, or sail off of every jump they can find on a ski hill. The second is that they will move far away and never come home to me. Now that my nest is empty the second fear is becoming greater than the first.
What are some of your favorite memories of your children?
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Typical of many moms, I graduated from college, began a career, got married, started a family, and then quit my job to become a full-time mom.
As a child, I remember wanting to be one of four things when I grew up; a park ranger, someone who worked with baby animals in a zoo, a school teacher, and a mom.
My grandfather was a park ranger in the summers and a school principal in the winters. He was a park ranger at Crater Lake and Glacier National Parks and Colorado National Monument. I never knew him as he died in 1958, five years before I was born. However, he passed his love of the outdoors to my father who raised me with a great appreciation for the outdoors.
I started backpacking when I was five and snow skiing when I was seven. I spent many days and nights at two lake cabins in southern Oregon. At one I learned to water ski, roast marshmallows around a campfire, and sunbathe on the dock. At the other I played in the water, hunted for tiny frogs, and caught and released chipmunks.
As I write this I’m sitting on a rock on the bank of the Gallatin River in Montana. It is peaceful with the sound of the ripples and birds. My husband is fly fishing, and I’ve taken many pictures today. This is peace for me. I never pursued the forest ranger path, but many of my happiest memories throughout my life are from times spent outdoors.
My grandmother was a school teacher. Her first job was in a one room school house in Lakeview, Oregon. She loved teaching so much that she retired four times before she retired for good. She gave me textbooks and supplies to play “school” with. I was particularly excited about the teacher copy that went with the reading book. As I got older I decided I liked children more than baby animals. I graduated from college with a degree in elementary education and within a year had a job teaching first grade. I enjoyed teaching, but I still had a strong desire to be a mom.
I always knew I’d be a mom someday. I imagined a family with six kids and gave them names. In reality, my husband and I had two baby boys. I quit teaching when boy number two was born. I consider myself lucky to have dedicated twenty one years to the full attention of my boys.
So, now it’s hard to believe that I am here in Montana getting ready to say goodbye to my youngest as he starts his freshman year of college.
As parents we raise our children to know right from wrong, think on their own, be responsible and independent. We have to trust that our lessons have sunk in and that they will make good choices, be safe, and be happy. Every year we’ve relinquished a little control and influence over them. However, the jump to college is like a leap across the Grand Canyon. We may never know the parents of their new friends or what time they get back to their room at night. Every day they’ll make choices and decisions without us knowing. There will even be days we don’t talk or text each other.
Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Keaton. I’ll give him a hug and a kiss, tell him to make good choices, be safe, and be happy. I know he will, but I still have to do my job as a mom and remind him of these things. I’ll hug him again extra tight and cry. Then his father and I will drive 750 miles away from him.
Like my grandfather and father with the outdoors, and my grandmother with teaching, I’ve followed my passions into teaching and being a mom. Now that my role has changed, I’m following my passions for nutrition, the outdoors, photography, and inspiring others to live well longer.
I know a lot of moms who are saying goodbye to their college bound children. I know they struggle between letting go and knowing their child is off to great things. If you are in this situation leave a comment below and let me know how it is going for you.