If you don’t write a blog post, is it really happening?

So this first post of the new year is dedicated to my sister, Stacia.  Which makes sense cause when I spoke with her on the phone tonight she said, “Well, you’re not blogging.  I didn’t even know if this race was happening cause you haven’t written anything about it.  How am I sure that we’re running?”  Ah – the layer of guilt that insulates a good sisterly-bond.

She then kept talking in a self-labeled attempt to “give you more material to write about.”  Ah – the support sisters show each other.

Tomorrow, she and Rob fly in for our 2nd annual Disney running weekend.  We three are doing the half again like last year.  But we’ll be joined by my husband, Steve, who is doing the Goofy – running the 1/2 on Saturday and the full on Sunday.  (Yeah, don’t ask, I don’t know why either.  Other than you get three medals and three t-shirts. And yes, it makes my stomach cramp a little and I worry but he just poo-poos it so I keep it to myself.)

Steve’s plan to survive Goofy is to run the 1/2 with me.  Or as he put it when he hatched his plan: “I’ll walk with you.”  Nice.  And Stacia and Rob are just over the flu.  So we’ll all be sticking together to do things nice and easy. Or as Steve has dubbed us: “Team Turtle”.  (All I can say is, he’s lucky he’s cute.)

But even this ectotherm has goals.  As Steve wandered the Orlando outlet stores last year in his post-marathon deluded state, he promised to buy me a Coach purse if I ran again this year and beat my time by 13.1 minutes.  (Get it?)  So I have to pace at 11:51 per mile to win the deal.  Stacia intends for me to win – as evidenced by our conversation tonight:

“So, last year, we started out great – it was your foot injury that slowed us down. So I’m going to start you at an 11:45 pace and we’re going to keep it up. And I have a whole bunch of motivational speeches prepared…”

“You’re writing all these down to remember them?”

“Heck no. I’ll remember them – I’m a genius.”

She is actually very smart. As for genius….hm…

“And how do you feel about Minnie ears? Cause I’m thinking we’re going to run with Minnie ears.”

I love my sister.  She cracks me up – ears and all. She rags on my attire and my worries. And yet she can out worry me any day of the week (yes, you can – so don’t go posting a comment that you don’t!). And she can outrun me any day of the week. But she is the most kindhearted, loving person out there. And if she ever gives up her day job – she can totally be a motivational speaker – or fitness trainer.

So Stacia – here’s the first of a few blog posts about Disney this year.  Cause if I don’t blog about it – it won’t happen.  Let the magic begin!



A life well lived

I had a good strong run today.  Despite a nagging knee, I managed to feel pretty good about speed and stamina. Got Disney looming and want to do better than Savannah.

But most of my run (and maybe the root of my success today), my thoughts were not on running but on my sister, Stacia, ….and her dog, Scout.  I remember when Stacia called me to tell me she was getting a puppy. And I still can hear her saying, “And the best part is that I will become a runner – think about it, I can run with my dog by my side.” I’m not sure how many miles Scout actually managed to go with Stacia over the years, probably preferring to watch from across the room as the treadmill motor whirled.

Now, Scout is nearly 17 years old, and has seen Stacia through her first apartment, her dating and engagement and marriage to Rob, her years of teaching elementary school, then through graduate school, and then her eventually teaching college students. Scout has run in the apple and peach orchards that Rob and Stacia have, and has been ridden, hugged, tugged, kissed, and squashed by many a young niece and nephew.  She has shed her fur in many of our houses (enough for at least another 4 dogs) and tolerated the introduction of another dog, Mac, to the house a few years ago. And her name is a constant reminder of my sister’s favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Through it all, she has always been a dog of great poise. She often casts looks around her as if to say, “I’m putting up with this stuff?  Why?”  Yet, she happily tolerates all the love and adoration that has come from Stacia, Rob, and their large group of family and friends. She carries herself with an air thick with loyalty – and fur, lots of fur. She is the reason our daughter desperately wants a dog. The reason we don’t have a dog is that dogs like Scout are a very rare breed.

Sadly, the last few weeks have made it clear that Scout will be heading for the Rainbow Bridge very soon. She has been an amazing pup and has lived a great life. And while it breaks Stacia’s and Rob’s hearts – and both their families’ hearts as well – they know she is in a lot of pain.

I feel so helpless – can’t be there to hug my sister. The best we could do was Skype last night. It helped our kids a lot – to see Stacia and Rob and get to “talk” to Scout. She is still the beautiful pup we know and love. Our kids were really quiet and sad (which was an improvement over the sobs when I read Aunt Stacia’s email to them). But I know it meant a lot to them.

So thank you Scout – for being a friend to Stacia and Rob – and to all of us.  I know we’re all a little bit better for getting to hang out with you all these years. May we all have a touch of your dignity and love and loyalty. Love you, girl.

Gotta run

This morning I was trying to dry my hair, tame my daughter’s out of control curly locks, fix my son’s bedhead hair, finish washing my face and put on make up, find my shoes and my keys, and get everyone and their Bibles out the door for church.  All in under 6 minutes.  And in the process of mentally cataloging all that needed to be done, I looked down at my poor toenails and their chipped polish.  Sigh.  Well, yet another thing that wasn’t going to get done this morning.

The hectic nature of my morning is not unusual for any mom.  And frankly for any given Sunday morning here at the homestead. But unfortunately I’ve been feeling like this ALL day long every day since August.  Since the kids went back to school and I started teaching three college classes instead of my usual 2.  Every hour has been filled with the stack of stuff I have to do right now AND the stack of stuff I’m trying to keep track of in my head AND all the emails I’ve answered in my head but not on the computer AND which kid has a project due at school AND what we might want to eat for dinner AND if we even want dinner AND whether dinner is actually the right term as opposed to ‘supper’ AND the never ending question of when will I have time to clean out the microwave and mop the kitchen.  It’s been go go go all the time.

Yeah right – having it all. If by all you mean “nervous breakdown”, then yes I am having it all. With a side of chocolate.

Part of all this crazy autumn has meant that my poor blog, which means a lot to me, has gotten the toenail polish treatment. That is Scarlett’s notion that “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  (Side note: I have never seen more than 20 mins of Gone with the Wind despite having had two roommates who were passionate about it.  All I’ve glean from their knowledge of the movie is two quotes. That one and my other favorite one: “Quitting time!”  My apologies to Scarlett, Cristy and Betsy.)

Thus I’ve punted on the blog (despite starting a 1001 posts in my head while driving to work or grading papers) and in related news my running has been challenging. Not that I haven’t run. I have. Sometimes at 5 am. Sometimes at 10 am. But mostly not as far or as often as I should have. And so I didn’t know what to blog about. Cause you and my other reader don’t come here to read about my complaints, do you?

But I have stumbled forward….praying for the holiday break and for a chance to catch my breath.

And I’ve run. Or hobbled – depends on your definition. And before I knew it – we were driving up to Savannah last week for the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. And I was wishing for a giant pause button so I could catch my breath and have another 6 weeks of training.

Despite it all, I finished the race. Yea!  Not very quickly. Boo. A time of 3:02 is not what I had in mind.  But then again I was worried about collapsing before mile 5 – so that’s an improvement.  And in reality I was chugging along on pace to finish in 2:35.  Which was awesome.

Until I hit the wall.  (Upon hearing that, our daughter asked me why anyone would put a wall in the middle of the race.)  Mile 8.  My legs just up and gave up at mile 8. And from there on out it was mostly walking with snippets of running to keep up the pace. Until mile 10 when my iPhone died and I had no clue how fast (slow) I was going. So then I trudged to the end. (Side note – I think Santa’s getting me a Garmin for Christmas.  Or a Nike+ watch.  Either way – there was a silver lining to that!)

But I finished. And I was not the last one across the finish. And had I been running the whole marathon instead – that would have been an AWESOME time.  LOL.

We had a great weekend – especially getting to spent time with my folks.  They were kind and got up at 4:30 to take the shuttle with us and they hung out with the kids while we ran (and I even got to see them at about mile 6.3 – yea!).  So while it was not the running triumph I had hoped for back in the summer. It was fun and that’s what counts.

Soon enough it will be time for the Disney run again. About two months and I’ll be up for another 13.1.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reminded of my first year in grad school. I enjoyed the work load and the new people to meet and focusing on my career. But I missed reading for reading’s sake. I am a huge bookworm. And I found myself trying to settle my heart by telling myself that “come summer break”, I’ll read all I want.  Pretty soon, I realized that you can’t cut out that which is a core part of you. So I read. In between classes and research, I made the time.

Granted – back then I didn’t have two kids and a husband. But I hold onto that important lesson. And I am trying very hard to get back to what is at the core of me nowadays – running. So what if the microwave has layers of crumbs and my toenail polish is chipped? They can wait till tomorrow. I gotta run.  (after I grade three stacks of tests….  🙂

What goes up…

must come down and come down hard.

Today our family dealt with what every runner dreads – the fall.  Gravity always wins.  Everytime. The question is not if you will fall when running but when and how hard.

Steve took off for a run this am while I was still only semi-conscious. So I still wasn’t quite alert when I was digging out running clothes and heard him calling me a short while later.

When I rushed to the front door, he was at the door but holding it cracked open. He said, “I need you to know I had an accident before you open the door.” Being the calm rational person (ha), I grabbed the door, saw blood everywhere and screamed. And I had five thoughts in rapid succession.

My first thought was “God that’s a lot of blood.”

My second thought was “Dear Lord why didn’t he bring home his entire face??”

My third thought was, “Oh my god that’s a lot of blood.”

My fourth thought was “Get the kids out of the hallway and into their rooms.”

And then, I must confess my fifth thought came from that stupid runner’s part of my brain. And it was, “Crap I won’t get my run in this morning cause I’ll be in the ER with Steve.”

Now, lest you think I’m cold and heartless – I love my husband dearly.  He is my best friend and the man of my dreams.  And he understood when I confessed this thought hours later. Cause he also has a runner’s part of his brain.  The runner’s part of his brain was the one that remembered to hit stop on his Garmin when he got up (can’t mess up the split times!) and which also thought, “I hope I’m okay to run on Wednesday this week.”

After the scream, I managed to:  call the neighbor to watch the kids, dress myself and the kids, pack breakfast (it was 8 am!) and books and Nintendo DSes for the kids, dress myself, get a clean shirt for Steve (he had taken off his shirt and was holding it on his bleeding face), got water and snacks for him, and load everyone into the car  – all within about 10 mins.

On the way to the hospital, Steve explained that he had no idea what happened.  He was going along at a good clip (7:40 ish pace) and went down. He had no time to throw up his hands so he landed on his left eye socket. Yeah – major ouch.  Later, we drove by the spot and figured he slipped on a cobblestone section of someone’s driveway. I hope they don’t notice all the blood spatter on their patch of sidewalk…it looks like CSI should sweep the place.

Thankfully the ER was rather slow as the Labor Day festivities had not really started by 8 am.  We got through triage quickly and to an ER “room” (read: bed with equipment offset from other beds by two curtains on either side). Beyond the blood, Steve was shivering as he had been sweating from the run and hadn’t changed his clothes. They swaddled him in warm blankets which helped.

The amazing news – no broken bones on his face. Nose is probably not broken either. He didn’t damage his eye – but ripped off the skin under it. And banged up the nose badly. Clearly his guardian angel was completely flattened by now but had prevented REALLY bad things from happening. 8 stitches under the eye and 3 across the bridge of his nose. His eye is blackened and swollen – and his nose is swollen too. I suspect he’ll have two black eyes by the morning.  Poor poor thing.  The kids are still a little upset to look at him and our son keeps asking when he’ll get back to his “normal” face.  Poor poor poor thing.

But, he was thrilled his “running parts” are all good. Not a scrape on his legs, no foot pain, etc.  He tweaked his back a bit, but nothing more than needing a few days of rest and targeted stretching.  The fact that this was a running injury was not lost on the medical staff.  We heard it all including:

“That’s why I walk instead of run.”  Okay I’ll keep that in mind.

“See running is dangerous.  That’s why I quit.”  The nurse laughed at the doc at that one and said, “Really?  That’s the reason?”  

“Man, it doesn’t pay to try to be healthy.”  Um, maybe but this was a rarity. He’s run 100s of miles without incident.

And my favorite: “See you should stick to a treadmill – much safer.”  Yeah, cause banging your head on that instrument panel would be so much better. And when the belt keeps going when you’re not – that’s just plain awesome.

Okay I wasn’t that snarky in real life. I am very grateful for the incredible doctors and other medical staff. But really?

Life is dangerous. Yeah I’m old enough that I remember being a kid and not using seat belts and bike helmets.  I played on playgrounds that didn’t have mulch and pillows under the structure.  I’m not advocating returning to all those ways. Not at all. But we have to realize that unless you pad yourself and sit in a corner away from the world, life has stuff in it. And to avoid it all is sort of silly. Cause you can’t.

But you can be wise.  And you should be.

  • Don’t go running without telling anyone about how long you’ll be gone. Check in with someone before and after. And be sure they are conscious when you tell them! (I had no idea how long he had been gone when this happened.)
  • Wear an ID!!  A long while ago, Steve bought us both Road IDs that we wear on our shoes. And another great option is GO Sport ID.  Had he lost consciousness (thankfully he didn’t), someone could have found our phone number on his foot along with his name.
  • Bring a phone. Of course this will probably not change with Steve. But I do run with my iPhone strapped to my arm – for tunes, Nike+, and safety.  Only have had to use it once when I tweaked my calf and couldn’t walk home.
  • Run with others when you can – or at least in well populated areas so someone could find you if needed.  Steve was running through a neighborhood where lots of runners come through and lots of houses with people.  I know I know – many runners want the freedom of trail running or being out away from people. But in that case – definitely bring a phone.

Later, after we were home and the kids were home and settled down, I went for a run myself. I had to prove to myself that falling is a rarity – even for a klutz like me. I managed to almost make it a 5K (the mid day heat was oppressive).  The worse part was my second scream of the day when I nearly stepped on a headless mouse on the sidewalk. (He did not have id on him.) It reminded me just how lucky Steve was in his fall. Yes, I realize he wouldn’t have lost his head but it could have been way worse. 

And so I headed home to my poor banged up hubby.  Full of thanks that he will heal. And that he will run again.


My other brain

Image courtesy of smokedsalmon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think I have two brains.  No, not just the usual right brain/left brain distinction that we’re all born with.  Instead, it is an entirely other brain that resides within my cranium that occasionally takes over my thoughts and actions. And this I have dubbed my “runner’s brain”.

Now, lest you think that I am suffering from dissociative identity disorder (or multiple personalities) – I am a professional.  I am well aware of the symptoms and I’m quite sure that I’m normal – well as normal as you can be when you are a psychologist, a runner, a mommy of two elementary aged children, and you are allergic to saying no to volunteer opportunities.

But this “other brain” or the “runner brain” tends to do and say things that my normal brain would never consider to be acceptable. This is the brain that:

  • believes I have the body of Kara Goucher and the enthusiasm for running of Mo Farah
  • takes over my feet whenever I am shopping so that I wind up in the workout clothes section even though I have a gazillion running outfits already.
  • is hooked on endorphin rushes.
  • likes shiny medals. A lot.
  • is convinced I will be ready for the 1/2 marathon in November.
  • sometimes dreams about running a whole marathon.  26 point freaking 2 miles.
  • made me wake up on two consecutive Sundays at 6 am to watch the two Olympic marathons. My normal brain is the one that kept my head on the pillow and kept closing my eyes.
  • takes over my mouth and likes to tell people I’m a runner even while I’m stuffing food in my mouth and pulling my t-shirt down over my belly rolls.
  • likes shiny medals.
  • gets a little jolt when friends mention that they feel like they should be running too because I post about running on Facebook. My normal brain says, “Are you people crazy??”
  • set my alarm clock for 4:50 am today and then gleefully forced my body out of bed at that hour against my normal brain’s will.  In defense of my normal brain – it was still sleeping and was caught totally off guard.
  • insisted that I keep running all 3.5 miles this morning.  My normal brain was the one that snuck a few walk breaks in there.
  • keeps skipping around in my head saying “See – you can run that 1/2 just fine.  You just need to keep getting up at 4:50 am. That was fun!  Wheee!”
My normal brain is going to punch out that other brain – after it wakes up from a nap.


Everything old is new and vice versa

The kids started back to school yesterday. Which meant that in the last few weeks of summer, blogging got pushed aside for things like camp (ballet and rockets), Vacation Bible School (where my husband and I stretched our acting chops in the skits), a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and lots of back to school shopping. And definitely running.

Including the running from Target to Walmart to find the darn pocket dividers that one teacher required. Of course once I had everything purchased and labeled, we got an addendum list with MORE things on it.  And once again….off to the store. Our son’s lunchbox made it through ONE day of school before it ripped. As I had officially declared back to school shopping OVER, I went the route of duct tape to fix it. And now he can tell his lunch box from the other boy’s exact one by virtue of the tape.  Several life lessons there – including buy the more expensive lunch box no matter how much your child begs for the cheaper one. And the corollary one – you will have to purchase another lunch box when the duct tape is no longer cutting it.

As we walked the kids up to school yesterday, the street got thick with bikers and car riders. I spied one little girl excitedly sticking her head out the car window as she waited for mom to get to the corner to turn into the already jammed school parking lot and car line. I’m sure for every one of the “hanging the head out the window in breathless anticipation” kids, there were equally sullen kids rather excited by the traffic snarl which ensured another few precious moments of summer freedom.

Thankfully our children were more excited than sullen – if only because our son is cheered by the fact that we are going to Orlando on Saturday for the Star Wars Convention.  He sees that as the ultimate reward for surviving the first week of third grade. Our daughter is concerned there aren’t enough “girly” things at Star Wars.  

And so the circle goes.

As an academic, I’ve lived all my life on the school calendar.  K to 12. Then college.  Then 2 years of a Masters program.  Then 4 years of a PhD program.  (Yes I am over educated, why do you ask?) Then the years since then as an adjunct instructor, a visiting instructor, a post-doc, etc across a variety of institutions, depending upon geographical location.  For the last 8 years, I’ve been very blessed to be an adjunct at the same university where my husband is a tenure faculty member.  (In fact, we are in the same department – because we are both psychologists – but not THAT kind of psychologist.)  I’ve had the fun of teaching without the requirement to be advisor, go to meetings, and do other faculty related things.

But this year – I have the pleasure of serving a one year visiting assistant professor position in the same department.  In my mind that has meant I get to teach 3 classes a semester rather than 2, I get more money, an office to squat in, and I get the option of attending the department meetings that Steve tells me are not all that exciting. To the university that means – I have a lot of meetings to go to and things to think about that other adults tell me they worry about (like benefits) but I have chosen by marriage and profession to largely ignore.

Thus once we had the kids off to their respective classrooms (and I had deposited the immediately-wiped-off-while-scowling kiss on our son’s head) I had to race home to drive in for the day long orientation for “new faculty”.  I don’t feel so new as I have been around long enough for my husband to get tenure, but that is a mere footnote to the university. As I drove to campus I was a mixture of that girl hanging her head out the window and that child who wants summer to last forever.  Yes, I love teaching and new notebooks.  But I love summer and being an academic means that summers can be rather laid back.  And I was headed to all day meetings – oh joy. The only consolation being that I was required to go to a faculty reception at the end of it all which included an open bar.

Well I survived the meetings, introduced myself while turning beet red, tried to not yawn at the information I already knew (after 8 years I do know the policy on whether you can tell helicopter parents their darling snowflakes’ grades) and I tried to stop the brain explosion of information on benefits. Yes I get benefits and I am glad for that.  But trying to calculate 20% of a payment on a hypothetical medical appointment that may or may not occur makes one want to stab themselves in the heart with all the free pens we got. I stopped myself in time to realize that I wasn’t sure whether emergency room visits were covered before classes started.  Then again, there might be a caveat in the eye care benefits that covers it – I should have paid more attention.

I pondered all of this while I was running this morning. In addition to the three classes, I’ve packed a 1/2 marathon in this fall (Rock & Roll in Savannah) and the Disney 1/2 in January 2013. Yes I am insane. Even more so because, given our schedule for this fall, my running has gotten pushed to 5 am.  Four days a week.

Oh yes I am quite insane.  And it is quite humid here.

By the time I got back home this morning, I could wring my shirt out and fill the bathtub. At least 1/2 way up.  At times I wasn’t even close to outrunning the sweat dripping down my head. However, I had a steady pace for quite awhile that encouraged me. I hope the sweat cleared all the neurons that had shriveled during yesterday’s meetings and worked off all the sushi I munched on next to the open bar.  But moreover, I’m hoping these next few weeks are old and new.  Old in that running is a part of me now.  New in that I can get back to the 1/2 marathon shape I need. And running each run at 5 am will be new for me. I kinda like the lazy approach of walking the kids to school in the running clothes and then going.  Now I have to run, clean myself up, get dressed and packed for work and then get the kids all put together.  Hmmm…..what are odds this habit will get old sooner rather than later?  Or maybe I could get a new PR in the 1/2 instead.  Yeah yeah – I’ll lean towards that one…..

Here’s to good runs for you all – even those (especially those!) at 5 am!


Time is relative indeed

I got a letter the other day from my 3rd grade teacher. Now this is may seem odd to some of you. Maybe you don’t even remember who your third grade teacher was. But this is actually a regular summer occurrence for me.

Mrs. R taught me reading, math, and all the assorted third grade tasks back in a small school in Central PA.  She and the other third grade teachers even took all the students on a field trip to Washington DC that year. Mrs. R was also our neighbor as she and her family lived right around the corner from us in our small town. We moved right after that school year but she has never forgotten our family, including us on her Christmas card list for all these years. She kept my parents up to date about events in the old neighborhood and encouraged me and my siblings in all our activities. When I started living on my own and started my own family, she added me to her mailing list for her Christmas cards and her regular rotation of summer letters.

Each time I get a lovely letter from her, I immediately vow to write back to her with details about all the things going on here. And inevitably, I will find her letter weeks later, in a stack of papers and I will kick myself for not taking the time as I had promised. And yet, despite my inconsistent summer responses (I do send her Christmas cards every year), she remembers me and still writes to me.  Her commitment to handwritten (not typed) correspondence and maintaining connections with friends always warms my heart. Very Downton Abbey like.  How very wonderful to open the mailbox and find something other than a bill or yet another advertisement full of coupons I’ll never use.

This year’s letter came about 2 weeks ago and one of the sentences in there caught me completely off guard. She wrote paragraphs to each of our family members. To our son she wrote, “Can’t believe you’re going to be in 3rd grade, C. That’s what grade your mom was in when I first met her.”

What?  What? How can that be?

Yes she was my third grade teacher – but that was like just yesterday, right?  How can it be that I’m a few weeks shy of 42 and that my eldest is going into 3rd grade a few weeks after that? He was just born the other day, and the week before that I was just in 3rd grade myself.  The age old question of how did time fly by so fast often catches me in the throat and causes a near panic attack.

When I think over moments in my life (large and small), they feel so close to me that they are almost tangible. I still can’t fathom that my friends from high school are now on Facebook, all of us talking about being parents.  Because in my head, we’re still those teenagers doing stupid teenage things.

I can’t believe I’ve been married for 13 years to the love of my life because that seems like a ridiculously large number of years to me.  It can’t be that long when it seems like Steve and I just met and have yet know each other forever.

There are days I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. Yet, I look at my kids and wonder how it is that they are no longer in diapers and they can read and write and annoy each other. When they were babies – and they were only 17.5 months apart so they were back to back babies – I read an expression about parenthood that said “Welcome to the shortest years and longest days of your lives.” How true.  Days of diaper changes and baby spit up felt like 2400 rather than 24 hours. And yet, I simply turned around and in that split second, they became elementary school kids with long legs and occasional moody attitudes.  And I want to hug them tight and put bricks on their heads and go back to the baby powder scented days when they fit in my arms – minus the diapering of course.

And despite all my longing for time to pass more slowly, wishing for it to somehow pause to give me more than seemingly fleeting moments of my kids’ childhood, I am always looking forward to the next race, to count down the weeks of training, and to run faster with each mile. How ironic.

This last week, I was trying to type up my schedule for the fall. I’ll be teaching three classes  at the university and I needed to figure out which days are which classes, which days the kids have after school stuff, and all the other stuff we fill our time with.  And I put my running on the schedule, right there at 5 am every MWF.

Ugh – 5 am?  Yes 5.  Why? Because time is speeding by. I have just about 16 weeks until my next (next?!) half marathon – the Rock and Roll 1/2 in Savannah, GA.  Sixteen weeks. Four months. Vertiable ages to go before we’re there. I have to get through the rest of summer, the start of school, and Halloween before we’re even there.

Yet, before I know it, I’ll be standing on the start line confused as to how those weeks have sped by so rapidly. I’ll recall all the miles of training and be bewildered that I managed that all in the blink of an eye. Of course, it would be incredible if my legs would speed along so fast as I make my way along the race course. Yet, I’ll be just happy to make it to the finish line.  For after Savannah, I have Disney to get ready for again.

And in this way, I’ve tried to mark the future with race stops along the way. Meting out time in intervals between races, weeks between group runs, days between training, and minutes between miles. And despite my occasional gasps at how briskly those moments go by, time is not under my control. I can just do my best to enjoy time at whatever pace it comes my way.

So take time today to catch your breath. Remember those important people in your past. And think about your future, what are your markers along the way? What are you looking forward to and planning for? Or are you going to let it all slide past without looking at it all?

How not to meal plan

I ate mahi mahi today. Twice in fact. It’s like some ancient language of dinners: mahi-mahi-mahi-mahi.  Mahi. If you say it out loud enough times it starts to sound odd.  (Go ahead – try it. I’ll wait.)

Why have mahi-mahi-mahi-mahi? Cause of a little thing called leftovers. In these sort of economic times, it seems ridiculous to waste food. (Actually anytime is a ridiculous time to waste food…) So while I have been good about my diet I have had to make realistic decisions about what to eat.  Candy – bad.  Leftover fish – good. Leftover Easter chocolate – not good.

What is it about leftovers? Apparently people who write “meal plans” have never heard of such a concept. Either I’m cooking wrong or they’re eating way more than they say. Or something like that.

I hit a wall a few weeks back and worked on tweaking the intake. As I prowled around the internet looking for just the right diet….(yes I honestly entered “why do I eat less and still gain more” into the search engine)…I found tons of those meal plans. And I’m always rather frustrated by them.

Here’s what happens (to me) when I check out one of those “healthy” meal plans:

First of all – the breakfast options.  Hmmm….on Monday you’re supposed to eat fresh pineapple with some cottage cheese and coffee. No fresh pineapple here.  Frankly it’s canned or nothing. Shhh don’t tell the meal planner.  Actually don’t tell them you’ve skipped the pineapple entirely as you believe it goes better with ham than cottage cheese.   Berries instead….but you know you’re eyeing the kids’ Frosted Flakes the whole time.

Tuesday you are supposed to eat oatmeal.  Not stick it in the microwave, instant stuff. But the real steel-cut oats. You figure to go all out – get the nice brand of oats and search the internet for the perfect oatmeal recipe that still is healthy. Discover a recommendation that putting it in the slow cooker is a great way to cook ahead.  Stay up late Monday to make sure you don’t put the slow-cooker oats on TOO early as you are sure you’ll oversleep and burn them.

Tuesday morning there is some yummy looking oatmeal …. lots of it.  And boy that just needed a dash or two or three of brown sugar. Maybe some more berries.  Even hubby likes it.  The kids take one bite and demand Frosted Flakes.  You are excited about the energy you feel from the yummy oats. And you put that energy to good use as you fling open cabinet doors looking for enough plasticware to store 6 gallons of oatmeal for the week. And then you need to scrub the slow-cooker of all the burnt sections of oatmeal.  That stick really well.

On Wednesday the meal plan calls for you to eat some fruit and cream of wheat. But your husband reminds you that he can’t get to the cream for his coffee due to all the oatmeal on the fridge shelves. You console yourself that they are practically the same thing – cream of wheat (never ate it before anyway) and oatmeal. You dutifully pour more Frosted Flakes for the kids. Then you try not to look at the gelatinous glop that was once steaming oatmeal as you put it in the microwave. It comes out okay but you are still fighting that gag reflex.

By Wednesday afternoon you realize that maybe the oatmeal can sit another day. So you tackle planning for Thursday’s breakfast. It includes one Raspberry Ginger Oregano Organic Whole Wheat Gluten-Free Sugar-Free* made from scratch muffin.  One.  Only one.  But they have the recipe to make it easy. So you figure it has to be good.

You gather the ingredients for the recipe and find it includes 1/2 teaspoon of some spice that you do not currently have at home. But this ingredient is in bold so you know it is crucial to the outcome of the muffins and provides you magically all the nutrients you need. So you trudge to the store to shell out $5 for a spice that you only need a pinch of and you will never use again. Along with a bag of organic whole wheat flour cause you’ve forgotten that you already have a bag of it in the bottom of the fridge at home from the last time you tried to follow a diet plan.

As you make the recipe Wednesday night (as the time baking will make up for the sit ups you skipped that day), you reread it as you stir the batter and realize that it yields 18 muffins. Crap. And you have already poured in all the ingredients and can’t cut it in half. Apparently these diet gurus assume you’ll be hosting a diet brunch for all your friends on Thursday as there is no mention of this muffin again in the next 17 days of the meal plan.

You figure might as well go ahead and make them.  Maybe if you put some of that leftover vanilla icing from your daughter’s party on the muffins, the kids will think they are getting cupcakes for breakfast.

You try to stay awake long enough to not burn the muffins. When you set them on the countertop, they look a little odd but you figure it’s late and you’re tired.

At 7 am the muffins are looking even more dubious. But there’s that icing you have. Go dig that out.

Unfortunately now you have your back turned on your kids.  The kids into whom you have hammered the importance of reading. Thus, they have pounced upon the organic whole wheat flour and strained applesauce stained recipe you printed off the internet and are reading it to each other.

Gross Mom. This says these are healthy muffins.

Did you make these?

Eww don’t we have real muffins? With chocolate chips?

You’re standing there with two sad muffins in hand, barely disguised under the hard-to-spread-now-that-it-has-been-in-the-fridge-for-four-weeks icing. And don’t forget the icing you’re licking off the corner of your lips…..

Mom! You’re not supposed to be eating icing. You’re on a DIET!  

DADDY!!!  Mom’s eating icing out of the container.

Caught in the sugar rush, you might accidentally hiss that the children can have ice cream for lunch if they would just HUSH RIGHT NOW! Then you smile at your husband and you don’t blame him at all when he looks at the muffins and says he’ll grab breakfast on the way to work.

As the kids dump their cereal bowls in the sink cause at least they’ve learned something this week, you lick the icing off your fingers and stare at the 18 muffins on the countertop. And you figure another morning of gelatinous oatmeal it is. The muffins get bagged up and put aside for lunch.

And by now you’re pondering how your attempt to pretend that chicken wrap at McDonald’s was the same thing as the chicken salad recipe on the diet meal plan was really a smoke screen.  But you also know that you’re gonna need to eat all that oatmeal in order to find the leftover chicken that’s in the fridge somewhere. And the muffins will have to be eaten so you can find your breadbox again. And you recognize that you’ve lasted longer on this meal plan than on the previous one!


And thus I eat mahi-mahi leftovers. They are better than chicken wraps from McDonald’s. Especially if you heat a tortilla and call it a fish taco. But more importantly, the lesson is – meal plans are for wimps. Real moms figure it out as they go along.

*Obviously not a real recipe. My apologies to any raspberry muffins out there.

**Details of this scenario may have been very exaggerated.  Just slightly.

Love and friendship

My feet hurt.  Not in a “I’ve run and run” all weekend.  But in a “I’ve been at an incredible wedding weekend and blast those darn high heels after miles in my Merrells.”

It’s late on Sunday night. Steve and the kids and I are flying home (towards Tropical Storm Debby), exhausted and filled with the lasting joy (and tiredness) of the past few days. I’m nursing sore muscles and reflecting on the past four days of wedding events. One last brunch event this morning closed out the magic of a wedding celebration weekend.

I have known the bride, Andrea, since before she and her twin sister were born. We moved in next door to their parents just 2 months before they were born at the end of a hot summer.  My brother, sister and I range in age from 4 to 9 years older than the twins. But from the beginning, they (and their little sister) have been our little sisters and our families have been dear friends.

We grew up together, spending time running from house to house. We played together, creating games of our own and spending time fighting over the rules of traditional games. Our fathers played tennis together and our mothers shared books, gossip, and parenting tips. Our families often traveled on vacations together and we spent most summers swimming at one house and eating and then moving to the other house to swim and eat again. We taught the girls how to sing in Polish and we tolerated how they licked popcorn and put it back in the bowl.  And we sang songs together – putting on our own Broadway productions in the basement. Two families, two sets of experiences, but often one joy in being together.

It’s been hard sometimes to explain the relationship our families have had over the years. To say we are “family friends” seems inadequate.  To describe them as “family” seems closer to the truth but feels insincere to those who share names and DNA with us. Thus we’ve skipped the labels – it’s simply been that they’ve always just been “The Smiths” and we’ve been “The Jones”. Okay not really our names – but that’s not the point of the story. We know what we mean to each other and we know that our lives have been richer for it all.

I think my children understand it a bit.  After today’s brunch, our son commented that he wished he had a next door neighbor family like I had. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d long given up the hope of that for our family. For such a natural and easy friendship is rare and one you can not hope for – you must just relish when it blossoms and help it to flourish when and where you least expect it.

Through the years, we’ve all grown up, gone to college, and my parents moved away to warmer climates. But the bond is still there. Still visit and still vacation together now and again. But time together is shorter and we are older. We share drinks rather than run around the basement singing show tunes from the 80s. Our parents still discuss us “kids” but now with new worries and new concerns for us.  We’ve been in each others’ weddings over the years and the girls have bounced our children on their knees.

Which brings me back to Andrea’s wedding to Michael this weekend.

A four-day Hamptons, NY wedding is not your typical expectation for a wedding. But the “Smiths” are not typical.

We started the weekend with a clambake on the beach – complete with great weather, a campfire for smores, and a launching of hot air filled lanterns to send up well-wishes for the couple. The rehearsal dinner was a wonderful family style dinner (for over 100 people) at which people were welcome to the open mike for toasting and roasting.  My siblings and I made sure to come with speech in hand, ready to share Andrea stories and wish Michael well.

And then the wedding itself. (By which point, my kids and my nephews were wondering how long weddings exactly last for, and “aren’t they married already??”)  But my musings on the weekend and the wedding especially are not about the details, the dresses (gorgeous), the cake (chose the ice cream sundae instead), or even the yummy food (and the need to request special plain chicken nuggets for one picky kid while the other dined on lobster tacos and sweet potato pierogis).

Rather, the ceremony caught me up in lovely moments of….love.

As you listened to the chosen readings and the special vows, one could easily be somewhat wistful at the special relationship these two share.  Yet, for those of us who have been blessed with our own incredible relationships, we quickly turn that into a silent recognition and appreciation of our own unique love stories. We smile quietly at the inside jokes in the vows, then turn to our partners and spouses and wink at our own jokes and memories – those of long years and those more recently.

For me, this overwhelming reflection on love brought about the recognition that our own families started this way – the vows my parents took and Andrea’s parents took years ago were the beginnings of the journeys that we all shared now as families. Great love stories do not end with the joining of two people. Rather those people create a galaxy of people, drawing others into their lives and strengthening them.

I am filled with joy that my family members have found love.  My brother and sister-in-law, my sister and brother-in-law, Steve and I.  In turn, each of our love stories has been unique – but filled with love and friends and our growing galaxies of love.  As I looked around the wedding this weekend, it’s clear that Andrea and Michael have already filled their lives with tons of people who love them.

No, we all will probably never recreate the friendship that our two families nurtured over all these years.  But that’s okay.  We are still special to each other, and in turn that friendship and love has taught us about our own unique relationships that encircle each of us.

On a lighter note – actually a heavier one – I refuse to look at the scale after this weekend blow-out.  I was relatively good but the food was yummy. But now that we’re home, I’m back on the straight and narrow. I did manage to get in one run over the weekend – in the Merrells.  Worked on the mid-foot strike and clearly I was good at it for my calves hurt all weekend.  🙂

Here’s to celebrating love – with much fewer calories in the upcoming days.

Sunrise (to) Sunset

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the miles
One leg following another
Laden with endorphins and tears

– Adapted from Fiddler on the Roof’s Sunrise, Sunset.  Apologies to Sheldon Harnick, lyricist

Some husbands like to go fishing, boating, or even hunting for the weekend.  Some husbands spend their weekends watching sports and then watching even more sports. Some husbands have hobbies that involve power tools, or musical instruments, or even alcohol.

My husband runs.

Hey – I’m not complaining mind you. My fellow runner widows all understand. I have two friends whose husbands have run the Boston Marathon. We’ve commiserated on our husbands’ diets, their training schedules, etc.  Yes, it’s annoying when they only want to eat healthy.  Do they need to run for HOURS on a Saturday?

But when it comes down to it – I’m really proud of Steve and his running. Which is why this post is about one of his races.  Yes this race was back in March – but like fine wines….sometimes time makes everything a bit sweeter…..

Back in January of this year, we were both recovering from our Disney runs.  Me from the half and Steve from the full.  There were days I thought I might never run again (thank you stupid foot injury) and Steve approached it quite differently.  He was quietly considering doing the Goofy in 2013 (which he has since signed up for!).  And then he got asked by someone at work, Joy,  to consider running across Florida.

Now, Florida is not a particularly wide state (if you don’t count the part where I-10 cuts from Jacksonville thru the Panhandle).  But to run across the state – heck any state – seems a bit much.  But the invite was to join a relay team to run the Sunrise 2 Sunset Relay – 180 miles from Ft. Myers to Jensen Beach. And because runners are those rare, odd ducks, he said SURE!  Why not spend two days in a van with other runners, alternating legs across the middle of Florida where there are bugs, rain showers, and alligators?  Cause you know – most of us think these things are slightly….crazy?

Even crazier was that Joy’s goal was to have an ultra team (2-6 members) so that there was EVEN more to run for each runner.  The other option is a full squad of 7 to 12 members.  But heck – why not go all out?  And Joy did meet her goal – she got 4 other crazies (including her daughter) to sign up with her and Steve.  All of them were runners but only one had had previous relay experiences yet they were all strong and motivated! And faster than me!  🙂

Now keep in mind I am not writing about this race from the perspective of a relay runner. I was just the cheerleader, moral support, snack chef, and Twitter update follower – the running widow as it were.

I dropped off Steve on Friday morning at the meeting place – complete with all his gear including flashing light for nighttime, reflective vest, Gatorade, and even some long run cakes I had made for the team. They headed to Ft. Myers for an early afternoon start – and I headed home to get the kids from school and plan our meet up with Daddy on the east coast of Florida.

The team had a plan for who was to run each leg of the race which was some complicated  Excel sheet that I never quite understood.  I think my comment to Steve was along the lines of ‘better you than me’.  But the downside of the race was that from the get-go it was HOT.  Not Florida in March hot but more like Florida in August hot. So things got off to a blistering start for all the teams.

I kept up with Steve by checking any Twitter updates and talking to him on his cellphone. I think all told, he and I talked on the phone more across those two days than we have in 13 years of marriage!  But it was good to keep his spirits up and hear updates of where they were and what was going on.

The plan for Saturday was for me and the kids to go help set up the Easter egg hunt at church and then leave to drive across to Jensen beach to meet the team at the finish. As it turned out – we probably could have stayed for the whole egg hunt as their team (the Roads Scholars) was a smidge later than we anticipated….like by about 6 hours or so.

I should have figured we had more time when I spoke to Steve that morning while still at the church. He was flagging and in his words “really needed to burp”.  Apparently while Steve is an incredible runner, he’s a lousy fueler. Somewhere along the night road, he took up the role of navigator (to the relief of the driver and the rest of the team) but that meant he forgot to eat and keep his intake steady and at a good level.  His gastric woes were overwhelming his focus and his emotions. And his math skills.  When I asked where they were and how far they had to go – his numbers seemed to suggest they had 10 more hours on the road.  Hmmm…. So I talked him for a bit and then passed the word around our church friends there to pray for him (and his tummy).

Despite the idea that the team wouldn’t be near the finish for half a day – the kids and I set out with hope high for improvement across the day. We drove across stretches of road we had never wandered before and saw huge trucks piled high with Florida citrus crops.  We also had a mini adventure in a FL turnpike service plaza that I don’t care to remember. I learned that the gps on my iPhone was MUCH better than my actual car GPS.  Despite the detours and the traffic, we eventually found our way to the finish line in Jensen Beach.

Many teams (especially ones with 12 runners) had already found the finish line too. So the parking lot was filled with white vans sporting inspirational writings on them.  I had forgotten how well our kids can read when our son pointed at a van and asked, “What does ‘suck it up, buttercup’ mean?” They both found the phrase hilarious until I used it on them the following week during some grumbling about homework. Reverse psychology indeed!

The kids spent part of the afternoon in a water splash zone, and I kept an eye on the time and the race course map. I talked to Steve a few times and tried to not mention how many teams had crossed the finish already. When it became clear that they were winded and dealing with a rainstorm on the horizon, the kids and I left to go find some dinner and wander in a few stores.

All the while, Steve’s team chugged on.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to ride in a van with a team of sweaty runners – many of whom you just met the previous day. It seems that they got along just fine and really supported each other – through the night hours when alligator eyes were glowing at them (seriously) and during the last few legs when the rain was coming down in buckets. The camaraderie of the event is one that I sort of started to think might be fun.  I was watching the other teams finishing and counting up 11 other women I know who might run it with me. I even had team names and slogans for the vans. Keep in mind – I was not actually running while doing this. I was merely entertaining two kids – which should be an Olympic event anyway.  But you often get caught up in the moment and think “Well why not?”  (Of course many of you might be thinking I was a lunatic for even thinking “why not” – and you’re probably right.  Those of you not thinking that – click on the Sunrise2Sunset link above and let’s get a team together for 2013!)

Much to our relief and delight, many many hours after they had started, the team came in sight.  Yes it was dark, and they were smelly. And they were the last team to cross the finish (although NOT the slowest team by far as there were staggered start times).  And most of the beer at the after party was drunk already. But the first glimpse of Steve was wonderful – for me and the kids. Even if he looked pretty worn out, wet from the rain, and just tired.

is this the finish line???

We cheered them all on across the finish line and found them some seats at the after party.  Thankfully many were still partying late into the night!

Been there, run that, got the medal!

A big thank you to Joy for getting him out there and organizing a whole team.  That’s not an easy feat at all. The team took up a challenge that many would never dream of doing and she cheered them all onward. I think they were all pretty pleased with their novice relay experience.

Later that night, I asked Steve if he’d consider doing it again – and his tired reply was along the lines of “ask me in about a month or so.”  I haven’t asked him again….but you know crazy runners…..he might actually say yes.

Check out these pics – see he looks like it’s so much fun!  Here’s the team before they started.

All smiles – cause we haven’t run yet!

They had lots of water breaks due to the heat.

Pit Stop!

See – he loves what he does.

Making it look easy

Sitting in a van going 5 mph means lots of conversations – and naps.

Let’s ignore all the stink in the van, shall we?

And yes it was that dark when they finished!

Whew – we are done!!! Where’s the beer?