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In the marathon of life, slow down to take a breather every once in a while
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In the marathon of life, slow down to take a breather every once in a while

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Nelson children

The children of Jeremy and Karen Nelson are, from left, Raina, 3; August, 9; Jenna, 1; Ivy, 7; and Sadie, 5.

I stand in awe of the people who seemingly can do it all. Yep, I’m looking at you — the people who can balance home, family and work with church, sports and community, and still manage to comb your hair.

Intellectually, I realize that each of you who can do it all invariably stands in awe of someone else who can do it all — better. But I certainly would like to gather all the lessons you’ve learned and the hours of practice you’ve put in, and adopt them all for myself.

Life is a marathon, but it’s not really a race against competitors, nice analogies notwithstanding. No matter what, we all finish. Along the way, we each have our strong points and our stumbles.

In our house, the two adults often run in parallel marathons. We do pretty well encouraging each other through the uphill parts and once in a while we even get to celebrate a success.

Other times, it’s all we can do to make it to the next water break.

My husband’s May marathon involves planting and calves. Mine involves Vacation Bible School and a family reunion. We do these things separately, comparing plans for the next day while cooling down in front of some bad late-evening TV.

The busiest times of farming and family always seem to coincide. If I talk to my husband more than 20 minutes altogether in a day during these stretches, we’re doing good.

In each successive year, I promise myself I’m going to actually map the leg of the marathon that follows VBS.

n I’m going to stick to a chore schedule for the kids and for myself.

n I’m going to learn how to shingle.

n I’m going to get the garden planted — not only on time, but completely — and then also take care of it.

n I’m going to teach the kids essential life lessons, such as how to recognize tricky people and how to properly wash a car.

n I’m going to read a book every week. Not just miscellaneous fiction, but books worth reading.

n I’m going to catch up on all the farm bookwork.

Doesn’t everyone go through this? Although our school’s summer break stretches a full 88 days, with only 11 of them containing scheduled events, no day has an appropriate amount of time.

I constantly find myself tripping over myself by choosing one thing to do and then doing the three things that have to be done first in order to do that one thing, and then running out of daylight before it’s done.

Scroll through social media for five minutes and invariably there are videos about how easy it is to make Chinese food in the slow cooker or how just five minutes of daily decluttering can change your life.

On the flip side are the platitudes, blog posts, memes and rants about “don’t believe anyone’s Pinterest life” and “if you’re a parent, you’re already doing a huge job, so don’t be so hard on yourself.”

These Internet tidbits offer some reassurance that I’m not the only one running this sort of marathon, and certainly not the only person who’s standing in awe of the people who seem to be on top of things.

I fully intend that our kids receive the four parenting essentials — time, education, love and faith — but it would be pretty sweet (if unrealistic) if their parents also had their act together 100 percent of the time.

Sometimes, what I need to do and what is best for the kids is to slow down, stop a minute, breathe and take a look around.

Almost daily, I pick up the camera to record something that’s most enjoyable away from the moment: A child covered in mud, an interesting cloud formation, calves running wild with their tails straight up, our windbreak owls, the unique result of kids washing the car without help.

I have no delusions of being the world’s greatest photographer, but the camera helps me to savor things that otherwise I would just find annoying or that I would forget as I try to run the daily marathon of life.

It’s these invaluable mile markers that put the marathon in perspective. Keep it real, keep it humble, hold yourself to some kind of standard.

There are no competitors, exactly, but all of the people are running.

Freelance editor and designer Karen Nelson writes four times a year from her rural Phelps County home. She welcomes comments and discussion at soilsandstreams@gmail.com.

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