We started out at 5 a.m. For the first five miles, the morning felt cool and promising. The sun rose brilliantly over the trees. Birds chirped. We covered ground quickly. After ten miles, the air felt warm and heavy. We began to groan. A slight inline seemed like a steep mountain pass. Our tires dragged. Our progress slowed. After 25 miles, our muscles ached and our breaths grew ragged; but it was too late to turn back. We had the trip more than halfway done. There was nothing to do but go forward and finish.
Twice I made this bike trail ride, from my home to the old railroad bridge that had been converted to a new trail destination. The trip covered 45 round-trip miles, under shady trees, through farmers’ fields, past grain silos and cattle corrals.
When we finally reached our stopping point, we coasted to the rail of the bridge and stood eye-level with birds that flapped above the river bed far below. We snapped pictures, sipped water, stretched our aching quads; then we turned around and headed home. We counted off 45 exhausting, creeping miles before we finally careened into the driveway, kneaded out the cramps, and crashed on the couch for the rest of the evening.
Our lives can often feel like that long bike trail ride. The destination seems far off and mysterious, the trail rough and shadowed. We wonder what lurks around the bend, what we will glimpse through the trees, and how we will ever make it home again.
Along the way I have learned a few lessons to help me enjoy the journey.
Train over time. For weeks we rode the trail, first a mile out, then three, then five. We increased our distance gradually, built our endurance slowly. Preparing for success requires time to grow strong. We get ready for the big rides by completing miles of shorter trips and smaller steps.
Have a partner for the trip. For a long ride, it is important to enlist a buddy to accompany us on the trail. Companions help us if we fall, call encouragement, and give us strength to continue. We need friends to keep us motivated and moving forward.
Plan ahead. For a day-long trip, we packed our handlebar bags with: crackers and cheese, apples and bananas. We filled bottle racks with extra water, carried sunglasses, sweatshirts, bandanas, bandages, gloves, tires pumps, Chapstick, cell phones. A life-long journey is easier when we prepare for the future, consider contingencies, and collect the skills and strengths we may need on the way. If we make a mistake and leave something behind, we remember to take it with us on our next long meandering.
Allow time for rest. Along the trail, we coasted on every downhill grade. We took numerous breaks to stop, stretch, and look around. We enjoyed the swaying trees and whistling birds, explored the shadows and scenic stops along the way. Atop the bridge we paused to look down and ponder the drop below and the distance we had traveled. At the end of the day when the ride was done, we dragged into the familiar living room and collapsed on the welcoming couch. Throughout our lives it is important to take periods of rest to relish our sense of accomplishment and feel grateful for the ground we have covered.
Life is one long road, and we are merely riders. We cannot turn back, but have to keep moving. When we maintain our momentum and keep propelling ourselves forward, we find joy and satisfaction waiting for us at the end of the line.
What do you take with you on your trail? How do you stay motivated to keep moving?
From Saturday morning cooking shows, I learned to make a perfectly-browned pan seared chicken breast, zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash, and the correct balance of butter and flour for a roux (the base for many soups and sauces.) But for many years I refused to try to make risotto.
Risotto is too sophisticated for my skill level, I thought. Risotto is only made by cooking school students and those TV chefs. I am satisfied with boiling rice and adding butter and salt.
But like many new experiences, once I tried making risotto, I discovered the result was easier and better than I ever expected.
Risotto is surprisingly easy to create, uses few ingredients, and can be adapted to many different tastes. Saying “I made risotto” makes me feel more sophisticated and accomplished than saying “I boiled rice,” and the basic technique makes a versatile, delicious dish.
Start with Arborio rice and olive oil. Drizzle some oil in the pan. Add 1 ½ cups of rice and stir it around over medium heat until the rice just begins to turn golden.
Pour in half a cup of chicken stock. Stir until the rice has soaked up the stock and starts to look dry. Add another half cup of stock and stir.
Keep repeating that process: pour, stir, pour, stir. . . until you’ve gradually added about 4 cups (32 ounces) of chicken stock.
Taste the rice. It should be soft and tender.
Then add 2 Tablespoons of butter and a cup of grated parmesan cheese.
The basic recipe is simple and smooth, creamy comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the process, any combination of ingredients and flavors can be added. My favorite is cooked and crumbled bacon with thawed frozen corn.
You could try fresh peas and parsley, or mushrooms and asparagus, or any other combination you can imagine.
And though I am eager to explore new flavor ideas and try new risotto recipes, I can still appreciate the simple comfort in a bowl of basic boiled rice.
What do you enjoy preparing in your kitchen? What have you always wanted to try?
As I am busily preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family, please enjoy this post from my previous blog, lizology101.
Have a very Happy Christmas!
I spotted this little leftover snowman after last season's Christmas shopping frenzy. When I showed my daughter the picture, she said, "Notice he's still smiling!"
If a dented clearance-sale snowman can keep his smile, we all have many reasons to put on a happy face.
"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Smile when you are bent, bruised and damaged; because you know you are still valuable to God.
Smile when you feel alone, abandoned and rejected; because you know you still have God's company.
Smile when you are unsure, afraid and uncertain; because you know God still has a plan for you.
Keep your smile because you are keeping your faith, and know God smiles on you!
Be happily blessed today!
Someone new has come to live in my house. This resident hides under the beds and jumps out to bite my feet when I walk by. She has chewed holes in the living room carpet and shredded the kitchen rugs. She ripped a Hillary Clinton doll to pieces within minutes.
I think it is my job to teach her about good behavior -- how to sit quietly and remember that socks are not snacks; but the truth is, her only job is to teach me a few things.
So far I have learned:
Blessings often arrive disguised as messes. When I dumped a quart container of buttermilk on the kitchen counter and floor, she didn't complain about the milk dripping onto her head and running into her eyes. She enjoyed the unexpected windfall fate had delivered and quickly took advantage of the situation. I could be more aware and appreciate the unanticipated gifts that often fall into my path.
Opportunities often appear disguised as obstacles. The first time she tried to leap onto the sofa cushions, she bounced off and hit the coffee table. After repeated attempts to scale the couch summit, she scrambled to the top and was rewarded with a soft, comfortable resting spot and a better vantage point for viewing the room. I need to remember that success may be preceded by several falls; but if we keep returning and trying, eventually we jump high enough to reach our goals.
Learning usually looks like playing. Every morning walk is an exuberant chase after falling leaves and a noisy crashing through the crunching drifts. She enjoys exploring this colorful, loud, and aromatic world. I am realizing it is alright to slow down, notice the changing seasons, and enjoy the glow of the early rising sun. I am recognizing that I need to make more time to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and see wonder in the world; because life is short, and children (and puppies) grow up fast.
What are you learning from the residents in your home? What lessons have they shared with you?
- Select an age-appropriate book.
- Curl up together on the couch, bed, or another comfy spot.
- Open the book and read.
I will be honest and admit that I don't remember reading to my daughter much when she was small. I was busy. I worked all day, and I came home tired. By bedtime, I just wanted to be quiet and go to sleep; so if I read a book at all, it was one quick bedtime story and then lights-out and good-night.
But as I pursued my degree in Elementary Education, I learned there are many good reasons to spend time reading books to our children. If I had those years to do over, I would make more time to read to my daughter, and I would make more effort to enjoy and appreciate reading to her when she was young.
Why we should read to children:
- Children learn language by hearing language. Small children who are read to develop greater vocabularies, learn to read more easily, and generally do better in school. Children who are read to develop an appreciation for reading and are more likely to enjoy reading later in life. Children learn how books and words work by turning pages and following text. They learn to process ideas, explore, ask questions, and find the answers to their questions by thinking about the words they hear.
- Children learn about relationships by spending time with adults. Reading together can be a special, cozy time of sitting close and being the center of another's attention. Spending time with adults makes children feel safe and secure and helps maintain those close relationships for the future. Reading together is a time to appreciate being a family and being present with each other. It is time to have fun, laugh, talk, ask questions and share ideas.
- Children learn about the world through books. Television channels and computer screens don't teach children to think critically, form opinions, ask questions, or consider possibilities. Reading encourages children to use their own imaginations and question information. Children learn how to talk with adults through active conversations, and they learn about the world from adults who share their experiences.
Moms can make a few preparations to help make reading together part of the regular routine.
Build a library. Children's books are inexpensive at thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales. Buy as many as your house will hold.
Use the public library for greater variety. Help children get their own library cards and select their own books from the children's section.
Don't stop when they're too big to sit on your lap. Older children can enjoy reading chapter books with their parents, too. Continue spending reading time together and talk about the stories you read.
When I ask my daughter now, she remembers reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In this classic, Max learns that exploring the world alone is not much fun, and he is happy to be home where he is loved and dinner is waiting on the table.
I have also learned to appreciate the home and love that are waiting for me at the end of a busy day.
Other favorite books include:
How do you enjoy reading with your children? What are your favorite books to read together?