Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Complaint Free Challenge

OK, I got this idea from a random audiobook I picked up at the library (A Complaint Free World by Bill Bowen). Maybe it's just another hokey self-help fad, but it was just intriguing enough (and speaks to my awareness that I do complain too much) that I'm giving it a shot. Many years ago, one of my sisters told me, "All you do is complain." It was surprising to me because I really didn't perceive myself that way.  It's been a few weeks since I've begun the challe nge, and I'm not under any illusions. I complain quite a bit - but at least I'm a lot more aware of it now. And I've managed to go two consecutive days without complaining since November 12. How about that.

The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. I'm also adding "yelling at my kids," one of my less noble habits, to the list. The method is to wear a bracelet, rubber band, or whatever around your wrist. When you catch yourself complaining, criticizing, or gossiping, you switch the wristband to the other wrist and start over. When you reach 21 consecutive days without moving the wristband, you win. Everyone around you wins too.

A caveat about the book: the author claims quite a bit about how your life will change and how the universe will bless you if you do this challenge. I'm not necessarily endorsing the whole book here, but I invite you to join me in the challenge if you're interested. No reading required.

Some rules: complaints, criticism, or gossip that happens in your head is free. Any of the above that comes out of your mouth requires a wristband switch. Even if you're just complaining to yourself (which I've discovered I do!) you have to move the bracelet if the words escape your lips.

The idea is NOT to just stuff it when something bad happens. You are allowed and encouraged to request what you DO want, but only from someone who can help the situation. If the waiter brings you cold soup, you don't gripe to your table companions or yell at the waiter. You simply inform the waiter (politely) that your soup is cold and ask for hot soup.

If you have a friend who agrees to play the game with you, that's great. You may point out the friend's need to move her bracelet, but if you do so, you must also move your own bracelet.

Gossip is actually allowed, if: 1) whatever you're saying about the person is complimentary, and 2) you would repeat it word for word in the person's presence.

One thing I found helpful from the book was this description of how we change or learn a new skill. The progression goes like this:
 - unconscious incompetence (we're unaware of our complaining)
- conscious incompetence (we become aware of our complaints)
-conscious competence (we start to be able to control our complaints, but it requires conscious effort)
- unconscious competence (we reach the point where complaining is no longer automatic)

The analogy that came to me is driving a car. At first it requires a lot of conscious effort and we find it difficult to attend to all the details needed to drive safely and smoothly. But eventually, we develop the skills and habits to drive well even while on "autopilot." We still have to pay attention, but it gets easier.

So...we'll see how this goes. The average person takes 4-8 months to complete the challenge. I'm shooting for May 12, which would be 6 months. Even if I don't make it by then, I'll be giving my family, friends and myself the gift of not hearing as much whining from me.

E-mail me or comment if you're interested in taking the challenge with me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

the Truth

Well, it finally happened. Alex and I had the big talk. I told her the truth.

No, not about sex. (She already knows about that.) About Santa.

A little history...last Easter we surprised the kids with new bikes on Easter morning. We had them going with the whole Easter bunny story, UNTIL we stepped outside to go to church and Alex saw the bike boxes in the recycler. All of a sudden she stopped. It all dawned on her. She turned to us and said, "Wait...the Easter bunny didn't give us those bikes - YOU GUYS did it! You LIED to us!" We admitted to all the deception and tried to explain why we "lied" - but she was angry and feeling betrayed. I felt bad - I don't remember getting mad at my parents when we figured it out as kids - but I could see how she felt lied to. She made us promise to tell her the truth in the future. forward to this Christmas season. I thought maybe the Easter bunny realization would carry over to Santa and she would have it all figured out, but nope...she and Sam were still believers. Until yesterday. Bryan and I had talked it over a couple weeks ago and decided we need to come clean this year. We didn't want to betray any trust or repeat the whole scene where she felt cheated and deceived and lied to. Bryan remembers feeling disappointed and betrayed by his parents when he found out the truth. And I heard from another friend who remembers clearly how hurt she was, that her trust in her parents was damaged and she felt she couldn't talk to them about it, and it even got her questioning her faith in God (which is logical).

Anyway, we hadn't found the right opening so we never actually followed through. I still have mixed feelings about dashing a child's innocent beliefs in Santa. But yesterday, Alex mentioned Santa and I knew I had to take the opportunity.

So I told her. I reminded her that she asked us always to tell her the truth and that we want to honor that. I tried to break it to her gently. I explained that it is a story that began with a real person named Saint Nicholas who loved children, protected them, and gave them gifts. I told her how people all over the world are inspired by Saint Nicholas and how the story grew. Just like the stories we see in the movies, the Santa story is "based on a true story" but has added bits of fairy tale and magic. It's not "real" but it points us to the truths of Christmas, like the love of God for us and the joys of giving. She took it all in calmly, though I could see her mind was working on processing this new information. She asked, "Then who is that guy in the white beard?" I explained that the Santas we see around town are people dressed up like Santa. "Why in the world would they do that?" she wondered. So funny, the way her mind works! Overall, it was a good conversation. Whew!  I reminded her that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus. She said, "Oh, I know. I told my Sunday school class the whole story of Christmas. No one knew it except me and the teacher. I was the hero."

So the truth is out. Part of me still feels sad, but she is growing up and I knew the truth would come out one way or another. I'd rather she hear it from me than from kids at school. I feel I did the right thing to maintain her trust.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

MauldenNews November 2011

Let's see...November...what do I remember...?

I spent the first half of the month doing my twice-a-year inpatient/outpatient neurology rotation at the VA. I like my job and all, but once I was able to turn off the pager, the real fun began...girls' weekend!

Start of the Mesquite Tri-States Marathon (Utah, Arizona, and Nevada)! (Pictures courtesy of Tammy - thanks for your excellent photography - as usual!)

The route was scenic, the weather was GREAT, and it was fun except for the last 3-4 miles when I was feeling the pain. But it was worth it for this...

Seemed like I just got back from Mesquite and it was time for Thanksgiving.  We had a great time with my sister Mary and her family. The kids made creative Thanksgiving dinner drawings which we used as placemats, and we made the most of the nice weather by playing soccer in the park and feeding the ducks and geese with all the kids after the big turkey dinner. (Last year we went sledding - this year - no snow!) 

Other events - we went swimming at Murray City pool (big indoor water slide - whee!)
 - I took Sophia and Alle around the neighborhood playing "bigger and better." We started with a paperclip and ended with a cute bunny doll, a big decorative basket, a hat, and a pumpkin. 
- We made peppermint and gingerbread play-dough, and decorated gingerbread houses.

Last but not least, my book of the month: "Unplug the Christmas Machine" by Robinson and Staeheli. We are "unplugging" this year and I already feel more relaxed. What are your tips for simplifying Christmas and making it a time of true peace, joy, and renewal? Hope to hear from you! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mesquite Marathon!

I still can't believe I'm doing this - I finished my second marathon this weekend. I beat my prior time by about 7 minutes, which was great! I had fun and finished injury-free. Yippee!

There were lots of things to like about this race. The scenery was beautiful and interesting. Desert landscape with Joshua trees, cacti, and a surprising number of flowers blooming. Snow-capped mountains in the distance. Red rock canyons.

Weatherwise - couldn't have asked for better. 50s and overcast to sunny, but not too hot. No wind or dust.

The hotel (Casablanca) and food were very good, especially for the price. I liked that this was a small race, so we never had to contend with crowds or lines. I noticed several people (usually older men) stopping by the wayside to pee during the race - made me smile a little - but I totally understood as there was really nowhere to hide - the open landscape just didn't allow for privacy. Luckily for me I did not over-hydrate, but even so I probably could have- and would have- made it to the next porta-potty.

I changed two things about this marathon compared to my first one. First, I decided not to carry water. I relied on the aid stations. That worked fine and it felt good not to have that water belt on. I did carry gel, shot blocks and jelly beans but ended up mostly fueling on the free stuff along the way - bananas, gummy bears, pretzels, M&Ms, and Hammer gel. Great variety and wonderful volunteers at the aid stations!

The other change was my run-walk ratio: this time I tried running 4 minutes, walking 30 seconds (instead of running 4, walking 1 minute). This worked well, especially on the downhill part. On the uphills (of which there were several) I added in some extra walk breaks. I didn't allow myself to push too hard, and I think I did well on the hills. I know I felt stronger going into mile 21-22 than I had at Top of Utah.

Between miles 22 and 26, though, I suffered. I developed a persistent pain in my front left thigh and it steadily increased to become pretty severe at the end. (My smart friend Tammy diagnosed it as a psoas muscle spasm). I was a little worried about a possible stress fracture, but I'd felt this pain before at the end of my first half marathon. I slowed down and unhappily watched 3-4 people pass me in the last mile. I debated walking the rest of the way, but I still hoped to beat my prior time so I gutted it out. At the 25.5 mile aid station, the volunteers must have seen my pain because they looked concerned and asked me if I was all right. I gratefully accepted their offer of ibuprofen and shuffled as triumphantly as possible to the finish. Total time: 4:51:31. Yay!

Walking was very slow and painful for 5-10 minutes until I stretched, rested, drank a lot of water and ate a donut. My psoas muscle let loose its death grip and since then I've been FINE - just the normal post-long-run muscle soreness. Tammy and I blissfully reveled in long showers, a delicious lunch, gentle recovery walk (to get M&Ms - very important, you know!) and a buffet dinner with lots of dessert. It was so nice to have that relaxing evening - and champagne buffet breakfast next morning! - with new and old friends and good food and conversation.

So all in all, a very satisfying weekend. Now I am going to enjoy a few weeks of recovery - shorter, lighter workouts and time with family at Thanksgiving. I am blessed and grateful.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've been practicing gratitude more lately, spurred on by Facebook friends and the season of Thanksgiving. And I truly AM grateful almost all of the time. There is so much to be thankful for.

But...I also realize that most of my blog and my "public image" (like MauldenNews) is highly self-selected to highlight the good stuff and gloss over the ugly realities. And so this post is an attempt to balance it out.

Please understand that I'm not out to vent or rant or complain, either. I'm just stating the facts for the record. I'm hoping this doesn't come off as whining. If nothing else, then when I'm 90 and demented and reading back through this blog to remember what my life used to be, I'll get a fuller picture.

OK, here goes. The uglies:

1. Our kids have both been in trouble this month for poor behavioral control - specifically hitting, clawing, and biting. Sam especially has been aggressive in preschool, to a worrisome degree.  He clawed 2 kids in the face at McDonald's and made 4 of his classmates cry and got sent to the principal's office.  Now I am the mother of the class bully. Today we had another long, protracted tantrum from Alle - uncontrolled rage, screaming, crumpling up her schoolwork. These are getting less frequent, but now Sam is starting to give us a lot more attitude.  Last week I put him in time out and he took off his clothes and pooped on the rug.

Our efforts at discipline seem only partly effective. I don't know how much of this behavior is attributable to our lack of parenting skills, but it's hard to feel there's not at least some correlation. It's stressful. I am worried they won't have friends. I never realized before how much of kids' behavior is deeply internalized by the parent. Even if others promise that they don't feel your kids' bad behavior reflects poorly on you - you feel it does.

While I'm being honest here, I must say that being on anti-anxiety medication has helped me a LOT! :-)

2.  Our house is kind of a mess most of the time. I don't care about this as much as I used to. I'm not really worried about it, but thought I would just put it out there.

3.  Bryan and I argue about plenty of things - these are pretty standard, from what I know, but we are not exempt. Parenting, household chores, TV/computer time, and money are some of our favorite subjects of contention. We aren't very consistent about making time for just the two of us. We used to argue less. Maybe we are getting more opinionated and stubborn with age...uh oh.

4.  I've been eating cake, cookies, chocolate, and too much Halloween candy recently. I tend to wait until the kids are in bed so they won't see me and demand that I share.

5. I've had to wear my glasses for the past 6 weeks (due to a very bad contact lens prescription and bad fitting by someone who made mistakes and didn't know how to fit them - long story, going on for almost a year). I still feel ugly and yucky in glasses. I have to fight the urge to withdraw from society.

6. I've had things on my to-do list for a year and I just don't feel like doing them, so I don't. I never used to do this (procrastinate)...what's happening to me??

7. Sometimes I dress like a real frump.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October MauldenNews

Hello everyone - hope you are enjoying a happy fall season.

October was a good month for hiking. We had mostly warm weather. The colors in the mountains were great this year - maybe because of all the water?

The kids got their school pictures: first grade...

and preschool...

I went to Washington, D.C. for work and enjoyed running and biking in Rock Creek Park. Very nice!

October 30 was a very special day for all of us - Alle's baptism day! At the end she put her hands up to make butterflies on the screen - a nice touch and very much "in character" for her.

And finally - of course - Halloween!

Love you all,


Thursday, October 13, 2011

one reason why I love living here

We didn't get all the way to the top today, but we had a wonderful time.

Trail was Butler Fork, up Big Cottonwood Canyon. We went part way to Mount Raymond.

prayer for the day

I saw this poem today and wanted to remember it. 

Real Presence

Let my heart be a wide and welcome harbor
where my children come to rest.
May these arms stretch wide and strong
to hold his fear, her hurt, their tattered sense of self.

May there be a solidness within me
on which their pain may crash
and recede
and I remain.

Let my presence be an island to them
in storm-tossed seasons,
rising up from troubled waters to offer
shelter, respite, and firm dry ground.

May they find in me
a haven to tend to battered souls
until the day the certainty of such solid ground
launches them to sail uncharted waters unafraid.

-Tom McGrath

Monday, October 10, 2011

September MauldenNews

Ah, September - you were glorious this year. Warm and sunny, but not too hot. I'm sad you're gone now, especially as we went from 80 to 40 degrees and SNOW in the first week of always seems wrong to me when we get snow before the leaves have a chance to change color. Anyway, on to the news.

Started the month with the Salt Lake Half Marathon, thanks to my friend Tammy (who took the pictures). Of course, she blew me away (yes, she walks faster than I run) - but it was fun, and scenic, so who cares?

Then it was off to church camp.

 Sam got to ring the bell to call everyone in to supper.

 I never get tired of watching hummingbirds!

Next came the Top of Utah Marathon - woo-hoo! It was AWESOME, not only because I - of all people! -  actually ran a marathon, but because I got to do it with my brothers Tim and Daniel, and wonderful friend Tammy (who again left me in her racewalking dust). AND - to top it all off - mom and dad came to visit and cheer us on to the finish!

 Tim, Daniel and me - smiling because the finish is in sight! And you can't really tell that our clothes are all wet, can you?

LOVE my moose medal!

Post-marathon thoughts...every time you do something new, you learn some things. Well, I learned two things. Actually, three. One - don't believe the weather report. Two, don't get rid of extra clothing too soon. We started off with a nice cold, drenching shower at the starting line so our feet were squishing in our shoes. Then we had rain, drizzle, rain, clear skies, rain, lightning, thunder, hail, rain, sun. (The course was beautiful though!) During the "clear skies" I was warm so left my wet jacket at the drop box at mile 7, only to WISH I had it at mile 11 when it dumped buckets on us again along with stinging little balls of hail. Luckily, it cleared up again and we made the final push to the finish in the sun. The last 3 or 4 miles were really hard. Interestingly, I could feel my hips, thighs, and feet hurting but not my knees, calves, or ankles. Rounding the last corner to see the finish line, Bryan, and my mom and dad, was WONDERFUL. Crossing the finish line - even BETTER! and finally being able to STOP running - the BEST!!! Really, it was a crazy, awesome experience that I never thought I would have.

The third thing I learned was that after a marathon, I don't feel much like chasing my kids around. I mean, like it.  A babysitter should be a post-marathon requirement. Finally - to quote another Galloway runner as she tearfully crossed the finish line of her first marathon: "I've never been so miserable in my life!...and I can't wait to do it again!"

The last bit of news for September - we ended the month in peach heaven. Our lovely peach tree made outstanding peaches this year. Big, juicy, beautiful peaches. Our apple tree also produced decent apples, for the first time in years. We bought a fruit picker (basket w/prongs on a pole) and went fishing up in the trees for peaches and apples with the kids. Wish I had pictures - but don't - so use your imaginations. It was fun to see the kids cheer for each other each time they snagged a fruit. I'm always looking for cooperative, team-building games for the kids - so it was fun to discover another one.

Final pictures: Alle's many talents: pajama biking, tree climbing and monkey-bar-hanging; Sam showing Grandpa how to use a stomp rocket.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This is Our Song - September 11, 2011

We sang this in church today, the tenth anniversary of September 11. I want to share it because to me, it expresses an alternative response to "God Bless America"-style patriotism. It's by Lloyd Stone, written in 1914 and published in the period between the two world wars. The tune is "Finlandia," perhaps known best as the music to the hymn "Be Still, My Soul."

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
WIth hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

 I love what this song goes beyond "God Bless America" to acknowledge the hopes and dreams of those in all nations. Even Afghanistan and Iraq. This morning in church I was reminded of the aftermath of September 11 on the world in the past ten years. Of course I am deeply saddened at the losses we sustained and I can't even pretend to imagine the pain borne by those who have suffered personally from that.  But our unnecessary "war on terrorism" has compounded that suffering, caused even greater death and destruction (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan), billions of dollars spent on war instead of a thousand better uses, the revelation of the use of torture and other abuses by our military, and the loss of much respect and credibility in the world's eyes. I found myself wishing I had been more outspoken in the last 10 years about my opposition to more war as our response to terrorism. I don't know exactly what the solution is, but I'm pretty sure this strategy is not it. So I pray for peace, and for justice to be done, and for the courage to speak and act, however I can, for healing and redemption.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

August 2011 MauldenNews

Hello all,

I hope you're all well. Here's what we've been up to...

Alle (the girl formerly known as Alex) turned seven! She and her friends had a great time at the Kangaroo Zoo - a big room full of inflatable slides, bounce houses and glow-in-the-dark mini golf.

We also celebrated Sam's 5-year anniversary with us. We went hiking in the mountains. Even though Sam has a lot of energy, he still needs a ride now and then.

Other hiking snapshots: Albion Basin, at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The lower picture shows some glaciers in the distance.

 "Back to school" day was August 22 - Alle is in first grade, and Sam is in preschool 3 days a week. First day pictures:

I saw Sam's teacher the evening after his first day, at the school's welcome picnic. "First he tried to take over the class. Then we sat down and explained the rules. He didn't like them. But then he got into cutting and pasting and he did great. He knew the names of all the sea creatures, even the manatee! Does he know how to read?"

As for me, August meant more marathon training - I completed my longest two runs EVER at 20 and 22 miles. (!) After each long run I've been taking ice baths (helps recovery, decreases inflammation and prevents soreness). I'm not sure which is harder, running for 4 hours or sitting in an ice-cold tub of water for 20 minutes, but I admit both activities qualify me as officially NUTS. Alex watched me entering the ice bath one day and got a great laugh at my screams and gasps. Then she wanted an ice bath too, but sticking her feet in was enough. Overall, I'm really, really happy with my training this summer. I am so lucky to be able to do it - I enjoy the scenery, new friends, time outdoors, time to myself to think and reflect, and tougher legs. :-) HOO-YAH! I highly recommend the Galloway program. Looking forward to running the Top of Utah marathon with Tim, Daniel, and Tammy on September 17.

Bryan took a trip to Kansas City to visit family and check out a job opportunity. We haven't made a final decision yet, but we'll let you know...stay tuned.

And finally - my book report for the month:

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn - haven't finished it yet - but definitely a gripping read. Written by a husband and wife Pulitzer prize-winning journalist team, it draws a detailed portrait of the issues women and girls face in much of the world - kidnappings, forced marriages of children, sex trafficking and slavery, maternal mortality, infanticide of girls, denial of education, honor killings, etc. It's very hard to read at points, but also enlightening and hopeful in some accounts of progress being made. One reviewer states that it "should be required reading for every global citizen" and I agree.

Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner - not surprising that I enjoyed this because I already like to keep journals. But there were some new ideas and writing techniques I appreciated, as well as some stuff that was a little too weird for me.

Collapse by Jared Diamond - explores the question, "Why do societies choose to collapse?" Fascinating accounts of ancient and more recent societal collapses and the factors that lead up to them. Pretty eye-opening! If you're not already concerned about environmental issues, you probably will be if you read this.

And that's our news 'o' the month! Hope you are well and as always, let me know what you've been up to.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our 5th Sammiversary!

Celebrating 5 years with SAM! Woo-hoooo!!!

So grateful - today and every day- for the gift of Sam. You are our sunshine.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Today Alex turned SEVEN. And, she wants to be called Allie now.

She chose the Kangaroo Zoo, with glow-in-the-dark mini golf and the Bug Room.

Happy birthday, Allie. You are our miracle.

Monday, August 1, 2011

MauldenNews July 2011

The notable book of the month was One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. It's a good reminder to practice mindfulness (and gratitude) in the midst of ordinary life, and I must give kudos to this author for being able to do this with six kids AND write a book about it. So, in the spirit of acknowledging the gifts I've enjoyed most recently, here are a few.

For friends old and new...

For time alone with nature...

For the fun of making a big splash...

For a man with the remarkable patience and skill to set 2 fishing lines - and untangle them repeatedly...

For the beauty of the earth...

For snow in July!!!

For more beauty...

I'm grateful.

Other notable events of this month -

- We really enjoyed "stay-cationing" in Park City for our 20th anniversary. The cool mornings and evenings and clear, crisp air brought back memories of summers at Donner Lake. We explored new hiking and biking trails, soared above the trees in a gondola, swam in a pool with a waterfall and soaked in the hot tub. The kids went fishing for the first time and we got a few nibbles, but the only thing we snagged was Sam's shirt. I went poking about with my wildflower book and discovered alfalfa, Utah sweet peas, Showy Milkweed, Woolly Mullein, Nootka roses and Wasatch penstemon, among other things.  Bryan managed to eject himself over the handlebars of his mountain bike on a difficult trail and banged himself around on some rocks, but he's OK. (Hey, another reason to be grateful.) We reached our goal of >10 for our "critter count": squirrels, dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, hummingbirds, turkeys, cows, horses, dogs, cats, magpies, quail, California gulls, and turkey vultures. Didn't see any deer there, but there were two in my backyard this morning, and I often see them on my morning runs in the neighborhood.

- 3 weeks before her 7th birthday - Alex lost her first tooth! She's pretty happy about that. Her classmates kept losing them all year and she waited a long time for her turn. She left a note for the tooth fairy asking if she could keep her tooth, and the tooth fairy obliged and gave her a golden dollar coin.

- Speaking of Alex, she has decided she wants to be called "Allie" (spelled "Ali"). I wonder if this will be permanent, or how many other variations of Alexis she might experiment with.

- Sam smacked a bee with his bare hand and it stung him on his palm. He didn't complain too much, but I hope he learned from the experience. We shall see.

- Last but not least - my run/walk log shows 96.5 miles in July - the highest ever! I think I'll go eat some chocolate-covered blueberries.

Write me and tell me what you are grateful for. :-)