Of Valkyries and Confidence

Valkyrie: in Norse mythology, one of a host of female figures who chooses who lives and who dies on the battlefield. The word translates into “chooser of the slain”.

When I first learned about Valkyries I was intrigued. What power and authority these mythical creatures must hold. It seemed appropriate that independence and great confidence be added to their character traits. And of course, all the cooler that they are female. That fact was probably what intrigued me the most. It’s not too often that a title like “chooser of the slain” is associated with females. For that matter it may not be often enough that words like power and authority are immediately tied to females.

Enter Valkyrie Initiative. A non profit organization dedicated to teaching women self defense. The other night, for our church’s women’s activity we were given part one of a two part course that Valkyrie Initiative offers.

It was very useful information, poignant and actually quite thought provoking.

One of the topics discussed was how a “bad guy” selects his or her target. Things like your awareness, apparent confidence level, type of dress and physical ability can play a part in determining if you are a worthy target for said bad guy.

When the presenter mentioned confidence I immediately thought of the mythical Valkyries, whom the organization is named for, and how they might deal with a panhandler turned violent or other attackers.

Somehow having this odd juxtaposition of a grandiose Norse female character with a modern day hoodlum made the feeling of womanly self confidence surge. I recalled the words “chooser of the slain” and then my mind translated the concept of “will I allow this soldier to live or die today” into a modern introspection of “will I allow my rights as a woman, as a human being to be violated without a fight or will I vehemently stand up for myself and my family?”

And then, my inner Valkyrie wannabe was crushed by fear; a fear stemming from the sudden realization that I had absolutely no idea what I would do if a panhandler got aggressive. No way to handle an attacker or sexual predator. I’ve been known to almost cry when I think someone *may* have *thought* something negative about me. If I actually came face to face with someone who was truly trying to inflict physical harm on me I had no idea how I would react. I was betting, though, that it was not going to be with Valkyrien confidence.

Thankfully, after the two hour course my mindset was changed a bit. I now did have some tools to handle these kinds of situations. I was taught strategies that can keep me from getting into these situations in many cases. By the end I was ready to sign up for part two of the course which addresses actual fighting techniques. It apparently also has people playing the role of the bad guy confronting you. The idea scares me, a lot actually. But, I’m hoping it will give me more confidence so I can, if necessary, be the chooser of my own fate and not a victim of fear.

If you’d like more info on the Valkyrie Initiative courses you can click here.

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Summer Fun

Back in April my kids and I made a “summer fun jar”, something I had heard of often and finally decided to do. The idea is you put slips of paper in a jar with things you and your kids want to do over the summer and pull one out when the whole “I’m bored” drama begins.
We didn’t get to all of them but between those and birthday parties, a visit from our awesome aunt and uncle, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s and some family fun days it did make for some summer fun.

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Backyard Swimming Under Blue SkiesIMG_1539.JPG

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Camping for Kings

Recently my family and I went camping. As I prepared for our trip, I felt my usual pre-camping excitement while at the same time my usual pre-camping dread.
If given a choice between sleeping in a tent or in a house I will always prefer the house. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever choose the tent because I like being with my family and I will choose them over comfort…usually.
Before we left, my husband said something that made me think a bit deeper about my dread of camping. He labeled my feelings about sleeping in a tent as “tent anxiety”. I realized that this is a very adequate description of my feelings. I do feel anxious about sleeping in a tent. What if the kids are too cold? What if they’re too hot? What if they have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? (How would I wash a wet sleeping bag in the forrest?) What if our air mattress leaks air? What if it rains and the tent leaks? What if we track in dirt? (I know, a ridiculous concern when camping.) What if it’s so uncomfortable I can’t sleep at all and have to go three days with three kids and no sleep? And there’s the word that explains my “tent anxiety”: uncomfortable.
Pair that with “inconvenient” and it pretty much sums up the negative feelings I have about camping.
And yet, when people ask if I like camping I’ll always say yes. Why? Because I actually do. I’ve always liked it. Especially as a kid.
So, after having this mini epiphany regarding my camping concerns I decided to determine exactly what I liked so much about camping as a kid and make sure I incorporated that into our upcoming trip.
Number one thing I loved about camping as a kid? Our pop up camper.
Well now, there’s the problem…I didn’t camp in a tent as a kid.
I loved our little camper. Most of my fond memories of camping revolve around it. Like waiting anxiously for my dad to get it level so we could finally start raising the roof. Getting a chance to turn the crank that raised the roof. Sweeping it out with our little orange camping broom (apparently dirt was an issue for me then as well). Opening the little fridge in the mornings to get the milk we would pour on our cereal from those little mini variety boxes….something we only ate while camping. Then locking the fridge by sticking that little plastic peg in the hole…something that probably drove my parents nuts since apparently, it was only to be locked when the camper is being towed.
I always looked forward to when the camper was all set up and I got to make my bed. I remember laying down layer after layer of bedding, making it super soft and comfy. I’d add my pillows and grab my book, or drawing paper and unzip all three “windows” so as I laid there the cool mountain breeze would gently flow over my whole body, taking with it any stress my young mind may have been experiencing. I LOVED that. To me, that’s what camping is, completely relaxing and being still in the beautiful, peaceful outdoors.
My very favorite thing about camping as a kid though was playing games at night. Every night after it got too dark to see outside we would go into the camper with its generator powered lights, sit down at the little particle board fold out table (which folded down into my brother’s bed at the end of the night) and play board and card games as a family. I remember Monopoly, poker and my favorite, Yahtzee. Wether it was just the four of us or extended family, we would always play something and it would always involve laughter. I’d take that happiness over the cool mountain breeze any day but with camping, I got both.
Until now. Ok, so what could I incorporate from my childhood camping trips into our current trip?
The camper was definitely out so leveling, cranking, little fridge? Not gonna happen. Though we did bring a pack of those mini cereal boxes and while I enjoyed my Frosted Flakes, I think a little of the novelty was gone when I kept wondering why they only included one type of cereal with a high fiber content and the rest were just the sugary ones. But I suppose that just comes with being the adult.
I toyed with the idea of bringing some board games for the adults to play after the kids went to bed but then thought better of it. We were camping with our friends and with seven kids between us, two of them under the age of one, I didn’t think there would actually be a time when all the kids were in bed. Turns out I was right but I didn’t find it that disappointing since when all our kids finally were asleep I was totally ready to be right there asleep with them. I did bring Uno to play with my oldest since he is beginning to enjoy card games, but building sand castles near the river and playing tag won out over Uno, and rightly so.
How about making up a super relaxing bed and enjoying the breeze? That I could do! I informed my husband that I had packed a bunch of extra blankets to help make our tent more comfortable. He gave me that raised eyebrow look that means “personally I think that’s kinda silly but if that’s what you want then ok”.
I even thought to bring an extra camp chair to keep in the tent that I would cover in soft blankets so I would have a relaxing, comfortable place to nurse my 6 month old when she woke up early in the morning.
In my mind I pictured scenes from movies that take place in the Middle Ages with tents hauled around by servants that are set up for the king, complete with tapestries on the walls, thick fur carpets, a portable throne and enough room to fit your horse. Oh yes, I could make a comfy tent!
I even had a small throw rug all washed and ready to pack when I decided against it because it was a shaggy carpet and I figured it would just get dirt stuck in it. (Again with the dirt.)
So, with my pile of blankets, including our down comforter, a queen size sheet, a couple small quilts and our sleeping bags I was ready for a repeat of my childhood camping experiences.
After my husband set up our tent (and I’ll say right now that I am very spoiled in that in addition to our air matress, we have an eight man tent the size of a bedroom that even my 6’3″ husband can stand up straight in, so really, why do I even complain?) he blew up the mattress and basically told me to have at it.
How did my bed making experience compare to my earlier years? A few observations.
First, the whole idea of peaceful and relaxing feelings goes right out the tent door flap when you have a five year old and a two year old insisting you play chase with them as they bounce on and off of the air mattress. There is no relieving of stress when your breath catches eachTaos time one of them slips between the mattress and the tent wall and completely disappears, only to pop up giggling and asking for more. Not to mention trying to get several layers of blankets on and smoothed out with two little ones jumping around on them.
Second, that peaceful breeze I remembered so fondly was pretty much non existent. Turns out I misunderstood where we were going and instead of tall pine trees and the calming sounds they make as the breeze rustles through them, we had scrub brush, boulders and the harsh noon day sun to accompany my bed making. Even with all the tent windows open, by the time I finally finished getting everything set up I got right out of that tent to go sit on the picnic table in the fresh air.
Finally, on a positive note, my extra camp chair/nursing seat/ throne worked brilliantly and I was quite happy to have such a comfy spot to feed my daughter.IMG_6155
So the trip obviously was not a repeat of my childhood camping experiences but really, that’s fine. I still like going camping, though now it’s not about relaxing moments but rather seeing the excitement in my kids’ faces as they play in the river, find a curious squirrel or help dad build a camp fire.

 

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Coming Home for the First Time

A couple weeks ago we went to a new park. It felt like home. I can mention several things that struck me about it though all of them can be found in other parks. I don’t know exactly what it was, but when we got out of the car and walked to the playground, I felt like I was home. Not any of the homes I have ever lived in since my childhood, but a permanent home, a finally-at-peace-home. It will be a tender mercy indeed if the house, neighborhood and community we finally settle down in makes me feel like that.
There was grass, trails that go off into a 41 acre reserve, a little gated butterfly garden with a circle of stones painted by children that was donated by “Pantano Ward Primary, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”, a playground with LOTS of sand good for digging (finally a park without wood chips), palm trees that sounded like rain being blown against a window when the breeze went through their leaves, two gorgeous views of the mountains, quietness and stillness, and very few but kind people. There were birds all around, calling to each other. A crane came close to landing right on the playground. Even the cacti were beautiful and inviting.
It would not make a list of “paradise” destinations or must-see places, but there was something. Something about it makes me want to go back, again and again. My new favorite park, and possibly place.
I was different there, or rather I saw a bit of my potential for what I could be. The words I listened to this morning in my meditation about being mindful of the moment and things in the here and now, seemed to come easily to my mind, and I was able to heed them. I thought of past memories that usually spark resentment in me but this time came with calmness and forgiving and openness. I was not so much in a hurry to get the kids back home, even though I was uncomfortable at times in the sun, or with the way I had to sit to play with them. I felt as if my husband would drive up at any moment and that we would complete a perfectly normal family evening routine right there, because it was home. A home with such a depth of security and peace and belonging and light that I have yet to have felt in my various dwellings.
I just wanted to sit and be with my children in this place. And this time I actually did. No hurrying off to “get on with life”. I gave my son his “five minutes and we’re leaving” notice and 15 minutes later I thought to look at the clock. Time just peacefully past. I actually wanted to stay longer when usually I have a strong need to leave and be onto other things.
We dug in the sand, my son rode his bike around the butterfly garden, we slid down the slides, swung on the swings, found the port-a-potty, my daughter napped. We played restaurant, ate snacks. My son made tracks in the sand with his sand toys and had the “trains” running. He even took off his shoes and ran around in the sand.
I don’t know if it will be the same the next time we go. Maybe it was the cool breeze, or the shady spots or the quiet time of day. We’ll see. I’m already planning a big picnic there with friends and a family bike ride when my husband can come, when we can go home.