Podcast Episode 3: On Mountaineering, Martial Arts, Overcoming Challenges and Motherhood

I was so lucky to be able to spend time podcasting with one of my favorite blog buddies, Betsy Kerekes. Here is the link to our podcast and show notes for our fun discussion about handling the tough things in life – specifically mountaineering, martial arts, overcoming challenges and motherhood.

The Heart of the Matter

When I was new to blogging, I spent some time looking for bloggers that were good writers, aligned with what I was interested in, and who I was inspired by. I lucked out by finding, Betsy Kerekes on Parenting is Funny.

There’s much to love about Betsy but I think what stuck the most for me is that she tackles hard things with humor and grace. This is true for parenting and now that she’s changed her blog name to Motherhood and Martial Arts (MMA), it’s true for martial arts too.

I’m not a martial arts practitioner, but in the great stories she tells about learning, getting injured, and keeping up the practice, I’m inspired by her grit all wrapped up in a lovely package. Whatever it is she practices, she moves me to laugh about all the great lessons she learns.

So I know you’ll love this entertaining podcast…

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Strong Back, Soft Front

This week it seems like I’ve had to be very firm with myself to focus on the things I have to get done and not just the things I want to get done. At the same time, I’ve been trying to hold compassion for all the things that are unsolved in me. It makes me think of this wonderful phrase from Roshi Joan Halifax – Strong Back, Soft Front.

Surprised By Joy

“Do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Last night we returned from a small outdoor party right at my son’s bedtime. I went to take off his shoes and socks and start to get him ready for bed and he was lying on the couch, head on the pillows, looking very much like a little grown man taking a load off after a long day. When I told him it was time to get his jammies on and stooped to pick him up he said, “No tank ooo.” At 23 months “no thank you” is his most powerful phrase and although I’d never claim that he fully understands the politeness of it, it’s still quite effective.

It makes me think of a phrase I first heard used by Brene Brown, “strong back, soft front” but I believe was originated by Roshi Joan Halifax, a Buddhist teacher. Strong back…

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The Current Underneath

I was reminded of this great story from my meditation teacher about how she disturbed the quiet, calm, lovely atmosphere of a yoga class to scream out the door. I thought it was worth sharing again.

Surprised By Joy

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

Last night I was out with my kids as they biked, my 5-year-old on her new big bike and my toddler on an old-school Radio Flyer tricycle. I suggested to my daughter that she go all the way around the block on her bike while my son and I worked best on how to make progress on his trike. This was a new freedom for my daughter, riding away from us on the sidewalk and being on her own for a whole block albeit one she knows well because we walk it all the time. She’d done it several times and was exhilarated by the freedom until the time when she came to the long back straightaway and didn’t see us. My son and I had made enough progress…

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Airing the Wounds Out

Something that I did right the other day when my kids had a melt down reminded me of this time when I got it wrong. I’m so grateful that life gives us opportunities to learn — and to heal when we don’t get it right.

Surprised By Joy

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

My kids and I spent the weekend with my brother and sister-in-law. Sitting around their semi-circular teak dining room table with a padded bench seat, I was reminded about a conversation we had there about a year ago.

“My mom said I should go find another mom,” My daughter said to my brother and sister-in-law. It was all I could do to not explain but because they are wise, they teased out the story from her. She was having a fit that seemed to be part of what came with being four because I wouldn’t let her do something. It had been going on for a while (it seemed like a fifteen minutes although it was probably five) and she said, “I’m going to find a…

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Sliding Glass Door Moments

I came across this post when digging in my archives. Maybe it’s the picture of Miss O on the other side of the door with one shoe on that tugged on my heart but I thought it was worth resharing.

Surprised By Joy

“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty –
that is all you know on earth,
and all you need to know.” – John Keats

I was reading yesterday about how the English poet John Keats wrote “Ode to a Grecian Urn” while he was dying from tuberculosis at age 24. As tragic as that is for him, my mind immediately thought of his mother and how she must have felt. Clearly my becoming a mother has altered the angle from which I think about life. I’ve heard of decisions like mine to become a mother described as sliding glass moments – moments where you can see life on the other side and choose whether to open the door and cross the threshold.

I’m fascinated by our sliding glass moments because they define the major plot lines of our lives. They are the story we tell others when we first meet. I was…

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Ying and Yang

We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong here.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

The other day I was driving in the car with my kids when my 2-year-old son, who’s favorite show these days is the British cartoon Peppa Pig, started doing a great imitation of Daddy Pig snoring.

My 6-year-old daughter laughed and then asked, “When we get a daddy will he always be falling asleep, snoring and messing up the map reading like Daddy Pig?”

Which made me want to snort with laughter like Mommy Pig does.

It seems like toxic masculinity is a term we bandy about these days. It reminds me of when I was a kid in the 70’s and Bobby Riggs and Billie-Jean King played their Battle of the Sexes and male chauvinism was such a hot topic.

But years ago I read something from University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson that made me think that this topic is deeply seeded in humans. In his book 12 Rules for Life, he talked about selection of male partners.

Woman are choosy maters (unlike female chimps, their closest animal counterparts). Most men do not meet female human standards. It is for this reason that women on dating sites rate 85 percent of men as below average in attractiveness. It is for this reason that we all have twice as many female ancestors as male (imagine that all the women who have ever lived have averaged one child. Now imagine that half the men who ever lived have fathered two children, if they had any, while the other half fathered none).

I thought that was a stunning statistic of the big picture view that only 50% of men, averaged over all time, have fathered children. But then it’s the next part of the passage that gave a hint about toxic masculinity:

It is Woman as Nature who looks at half of all men and says, “No!” For the men, that’s a direct encounter with chaos, and it occurs every time they are turned down for a date. Human female choosiness is also why we are very different from the common ancestor we shared with our chimpanzee cousins, while the latter are very much the same. Women’s proclivity to say no, more than any other force, has shaped our evolution into the creative, industrious, upright, large-brained (competitive, aggressive, domineering) creatures that we are.

I know Dr. Peterson is a controversial character. But taking this argument at face value, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a leap to believe that women have sought out men who are certain, successful, strong and seemingly invulnerable. And so perhaps women can help to change that nature too, or at least I’d like to think we can help:

By raising sons who are free to grapple with their emotions.

By being a safe place for our brothers and friends to talk about the pressures they feel.

By helping out with map reading.

By letting our daughters know that it’s great to choose men who let their non-aggressive flags fly.

By listening and supporting everyone who says this is hard.

Maybe when I have a partner in life again, he’ll fall asleep and snore. But like Daddy Pig, he’ll be able to laugh about it because he knows we don’t expect him to be perfect, just true.

What do you think? Can women help with toxic masculinity? Is it too much of a buzz word to have much meaning? Is it okay to quote someone like Dr. Peterson even if I don’t agree with how he’s been politicized?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Sunday Funnies: June 26

Another installment from my dad’s humor cards.

The backstory: My dad was a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years. He kept a well curated stack of humor cards – little stories or observations that he typed onto 5×7 cards. Then he wrote in the margins when he used that particular item. His humor was often an easy way to settle in to something deeper – by laughing and thinking about the buried truth in these little nuggets, it paved the way to an open heart.

When we cleaned out his desk after he died 7 years ago, I was lucky enough to stumble on this stack. I pull it out regularly to have a little laugh with my dear Dad. Now when I post one of them, I write my note next to his and it feels like a continuation.


A father and son in a huge rig were plowing their large acreage. At the end of a long hot day they came to the last run, alongside the highway. At the end the corner was too sharp to turn without spoiling part of what they’d done, so they opened the gate onto the highway and figured they would turn their 40 foot rig around there.

About the time they were in the middle of the highway, a small racy sports car came up over the hill at about 90 miles an hour. The driver panicked when he saw this huge 40 foot rig across the road in front of him and thought for sure it was the end, until, just before he ploughed into them, he saw the open gate into the field. So he spun off the highway, jumped a ditch, zigged and zagged across the soft dirt and then smashed into a tree.

The father turned to the son after watching this whole scene and said, “Whew, we got out of that field just in time!”

Sunday Funnies: May 15

Another installment from my dad’s humor cards.

The backstory: My dad was a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years. He kept a well curated stack of humor cards – little stories or observations that he typed onto 5×7 cards. Then he wrote in the margins when he used that particular item. His humor was often an easy way to settle in to something deeper – by laughing and thinking about the buried truth in these little nuggets, it paved the way to an open heart.

When we cleaned out his desk after he died 7 years ago, I was lucky enough to stumble on this stack. I pull it out regularly to have a little laugh with my dear Dad. Now when I post one of them, I write my note next to his and it feels like a continuation.

Church Bulletin Bloopers

Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.

The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.

The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

Remember in prayer those who are sick of our church and community.

Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on “It’s a terrible experience.”

Dear Mom, Part 2

Motherhood is the great mesh in which all human relations are entangled, in which lurk our most elemental assumptions about love and power.” – Adrienne Rich

Today is my grandmother’s birthday and even though she’s been gone for 22 years, I still mark this day in celebration of a confident woman who led a purposeful life even with a limited education.  So it seems like a perfect opportunity to post the results of the contributions you all made about what we learned from mothers.

I have broken the contributions into sections but left them as they were written – because they are all written by talented writers who say it best in their own words. I’ve linked to each person’s blog to provide ready access to more of that amazing writing by each of these authors.

Skills/Practical Advice

There were many interesting skills and practical advice taught by mothers:

  • TamaraKulish: Even though I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother, I’m still grateful for her example of a strong woman who taught her son and daughter how to take care of themselves. We both learned not only how to cook, clean, and do laundry, but we both learned how to use hand and power tools to make minor repairs around the house. We learned a strong work ethic and the value of completing tasks properly!
  • MSW Blog: My mom has taught me so many things, but the one that got me through my years of academia was,” Always keep an emergency $20 bill in your, wallet it will get you through more jams than you can imagine.” She was of course correct as I was able to replace stockings, late night snacks, cover taxi fare, study supplies etc.
  • Rebecca Cuningham: My mom taught me women can do anything and everything; play sports, wield a hammer for Habitat, teach math…
  • Swinged Cat: My mom taught me that Sauvignon blanc wines from the Marlborough region of New Zealand are far superior.

The last being from the always funny Mark Petruska might be tongue in cheek but I don’t know.

By Example

And there were a lot of suggestions of things taught by example:

  • Ashley Peterson: I’m grateful that my mom instilled a love a reading in me.
  • Jane Fritz: All that having been said, my mother (1917-1974) was a remarkable, strong woman. Although in a very strong and mutually supportive marriage in a different time, when many considered the man to be the provider, by example the importance for a woman to have a career of her own. She taught me by example the importance of lifelong learning, of being informed, and of having the confidence to use her voice. And, along with many other things, she gave me a lifelong love of music and books. I have missed her every day for nearly 50 years now.
  • Finding Grace: When I think about what my mom taught me, some of it was overt and purposeful, but some of it was through example… it was just part of who she was. My mom taught me to give compliments freely (she would always compliment people, even random strangers), she taught me that learning to love began with learning to love myself, she taught me to set boundaries with others, she taught me that family and connection is everything, she modeled for me how to be strong in the face of adversity, and she taught me a love of growing things (people, pets, flowers, etc.). My mom was good at meeting a person where they were. She was supportive and encouraging, without being overbearing. Oh, and she also taught us to own up to our mistakes head on. She was all about integrity.
  • Julia Preston: I was raised in the “Children are to be seen and not heard” era. While she did not easily fit into the warm and fuzzy category, my mother was an outstanding role model. Her love was expressed by example rather than hugs. We never knew until we were adults that she detested vegetables, which she faithfully ate every night of our youth to set a good example. She passed away at 101, by which time, hugs became a part of our daily lives. I miss her every day.

And of course, love…

And there was a strong theme of love to the contributions including:

  • DutchIl: my Mom taught me to follow my heart and my dreams and be me… 
  • Hart Inspiratons: My mom taught me many things, and did me many things for me (for which I am grateful), but her primary lesson was to love myself. I’ve been processing that one my whole life. 

For our children

And finally in the category of motherly advice to give to children, there was this wonderful contribution from MSW Blog:

  • MSW Blog: The advice I would pass on to my children is listen. truly listen to what a person is saying, as it will allow you to not only communicate more clearly but obtain a clearer picture of the whole person.

And for interesting and thought-provoking reading, which is what Jane Fritz always provides along with some humor, Jane wrote a wonderful post on her Robby Robin’s blog entitled Mother’s Day: appreciation but no glorification please!

The Hot Goddess published a great post about lessons both good and bad that she learned from her mom and as befitting her gifted and entertaining blog, it is well-worth reading.

(featured photo from Pexels)