Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Also... check your link on La Blogrolle. I transfered all of them one by one from my . Took for-e-ver. I would hate to go to all the trouble and not even have the right domain for somebody. If you don't mind, change my link on your site too. Its easy: andihawkins.com. Holla!!!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The report explained a study conducted at the University of Iowa where mothers of children under six wore a device to measure physical activity for a week. Findings showed that most of the meaningful physical activity was of the intentional variety (i.e. sports and exercise) while any incidental activity (like chasing after kids) didn't offer a significant health benefit.
Despite the questionable validity (a whopping 58 subjects in the entire study?!), the researcher’s conclusion is hard to sell. During the writing of this paragraph, I was summoned across the house two times, once to "please close the bathroom door" and once for an official wipe. In fact, most of the day I whisked around shoveling loads of laundry and vacuuming the debris trail of the World's Hairiest Dog. If this doesn't have a significant health benefit, please somebody stop me.
As a runner, I would love for women everywhere to enjoy an hour of early morning quiet, pounding the sleepy streets like I do. But as a mother, I know that exercise often follows flossing to the archive of abandoned resolve. Why would a mother want to exert herself if she is already worn out? If she is, indeed, “run ragged” what conceivable perk does she gain by adding something else? I run because I enjoy it, not because some expert told me to.
Dear authors of guilt-inducing studies:
When you describe your target group as "run ragged" do not then accuse them of not doing enough.
Ladies, do not under any circumstances give yourself fitness credit when keeping up with the children. Run, dance, swim if you like, but adhere to the guidelines. If you don’t, your under-exercised self may drop dead of a massive coronary during pre-school pick-up. It’s a proven fact.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
There is a beautiful street at the end of our run, lined with tall trees. When we round the bend to this last stretch, it is praying time. There are no rituals to make God seem far away. Our hands can't clasp, we can't bow our heads, we can't even close our eyes. We are two friends talking to each other and to our God who is as close as our own breath. Our prayers spout and gasp, but they surround us like little lamps, warming our insides with freedom and energy.
There is no pretension. Our confessions, our worries, the stones of our souls, they float off like bubbles as we stomp down the road. We pray for our favorites- Her Jerrod, My Greg, and the four babies between us. We fight for them, with all the fervor our legs can muster. We can't help it, as we speak we run faster and faster, as if our effort is the measure of our passion.
When we finish, we are breathless. We have shown each other our ugliest, our best. Like two lovely warriors we walk along, sweaty and peaceful, ready for another day.
Friday, September 4, 2009
In other news... I'm updating my blog links too, so if you haven't posted in over two months I'm cleaning you off the roster unless you comment on THIS POST. Believe me, I understand a neglected blog, but seriously Todd, it's been too long. To everyone who isn't already on my list and wants to be, leave me a comment and I will show you some love. That's how I am.
Preschool starts back next week (Glory!). I have a bone to pick with preschool. If preschool were nicer, it wouldn't have abandoned me all summer in the raging, never-ending heat. Where were you preschool while I tried to keep the boys alive under the Elmo sprinkler? Where were you while they ate their ice pops in the bathtub because it was too hot in the driveway? Where were you while our family rolled lethargically around the couch demanding goldfish and juice boxes [Toby and Charlie] and pretending to be asleep [me]? Now here you are again just in time for my boys to play outside in the mild(ish) fall weather instead of dangle whiningly from the fridge door. Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad you came back, but your timing is less than impeccable.
I forgive you preschool. Just the sight of your golden head peeking over the horizon like a seraph makes me gracious. With a couple of free mornings every week, I'm looking forward to sitting in my coffee shop again, plinking out whatever comes to mind and dumping it into cyber space for posterity. It's the good life.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Have you ever felt like someone was rubbing a scouring pad over your nerves? I cannot explain how perfect an analogy that is for my life. I suddenly hate talking. Toby will not stop asking questions. Repetitive, idiotic questions. “Why are we going to move?” he says.
“We’re not moving,” I say.
“Why not?” he says.
“Because we like our house.”
“What happens when our house gets old?”
“Lots of people live in old houses. It’s fine, dude.”
“Will we take our windows when we move?”
“WE ARE NOT MOVING,” I would yell if my head wasn’t already detaching itself to escape.
Was there really a time, a severely misguided moment, that I worried Toby would never talk? Did I really lack even a shard of foresight?
Greg took me out to dinner the other night. We left the boys with a sitter so we could have big people time. (And not eat at Sonic.) I collapsed into the car seat with a huge sigh and just sort of stared blankly. He was all, “What’s wrong?” and I was all, “Do not talk to me, I’m liquefying.” I guess my continual edginess finally snapped his patience in two because he went totally Dr. Phil on me, spewing out the most annoying logic like how I need to “create boundaries” and “take charge.” It was so reasonable that I couldn’t reply, being that I was more in the mood for a maniacal rant than an actual solution. I didn’t say a single thing until after we ordered our food. Finally my “whatever, Greg” face cracked, and I slumped onto the table in tears. “I don’t know how to be better at this,” I said.
“You are a good mom,” He said. I think I’ll keep him.
This afternoon I called our little neighbor friend, Kennedi to come over. She bounced in the house all spry and happy and I realized that Toby and Charlie were their usual pantsless selves, crawling nakedly over the train tracks on the floor. It is dehumanizing to embarrass your kids, but after an emergency shorts hunt, Toby and Kennedi are in another room playing happily, while Charlie sits next to me like a cherub, probably drunk with relief that his brother is quiet.
Charlie is so competent and self-sustaining. He’s like a terrarium.
Sometimes I really do want to move. Maybe I could find some loft apartment or quiet cubicle and live all by myself. It sounds so sane and clean.
Too bad I love these people too dang much to quit.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
But that is precisely what happened. I said, "Who died?" and Toby burst into tears, spraying us with worms from the can I'd opened.
"Did somebody die?" and "Am I going to die?" and "When am I going to die?"
Greg and I were completely unprepared. He was crying so violently, so out of nowhere. Greg scooped him into his lap to calm him down. I sat beside them both stroking Toby's arm, searching for a possible trajectory. How could he even know what "died" meant?!
"Am I going to die?" he said again.
Greg and I looked Toby straight in the eye and answered confidently "No!" [Greg] and "Someday..." [me]. What?! I shot Greg my subliminal indignation. Liar liar pants on fire.
Heartless messenger of evil, Greg shot back.
Clearly we had no plan. We sat for a moment, dumbfounded, watching Toby sob. Neither of us had a clue where to start, so we opted to board the Joy Bus through the valley of death like good Christian parents. "Let's focus on Heaven! and Living Forever With God!"
"Will it hurt when I die? Is Charlie going to die? How long will I be dead?"
"Heaven is super-fun! God is awesome to be with!"
He cried so hard that the hangy thing in the back of his throat wiggled with every wail. "How am I going to die? I don't want to die..."
It was more gut-wrenching than Beaches and Bridge to Terabithia together. How could we explain death and eternity to a four-year-old? Ten minutes before he was yelling "Come wipe me!" and now he was Socratically dissecting his own fate.
We whizzed through all the death scriptures we knew. "...conform to His death...?" "The wages of sin is death...?" Then we remembered this: "...Jesus, who has destroyed death..." That phrase became the pot in which we planted our integrity. We could look him in the eye and say "Dying is really scary, but don't worry little man, Jesus wins."
Then we all went to Sonic for a cherry limeade.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
When it got too hot I actually crawled in the pool myself. It was really grassy, you know, after Toby and Charlie had climbed in and out all afternoon. I grabbed the strainer from the sandbox and lazily skimmed the water. It felt good to cool off, but also kind of lame sitting there in an inflatable pool spooning out debris.
“What are you doing?” Toby said.
“I’m just cleaning off the yucky grass.”
“Why is the grass yucky? It isn’t yucky on the ground.”
He didn’t have to be so rational about it. I don’t know why it’s so yucky. It’s so yucky because I would rather be floating on a raft in a big people pool with a nice vacuum thingy cleaning it for me.
I like to think I’m above the discontent raging through America like typhoid, but I’m not. I peer out of Eden, looking for that one thing that isn’t mine, completely missing the giant mountain of wonderful I’m already standing on.
My two little boys are fresh and sweaty with life, laughing wildly under the bright blue skies of summer. How on earth could this be any better?
Friday, July 3, 2009
Which brings me to why I’m writing this post. Well, first it’s my birthday and the hubs mercifully gave me my laptop and car keys in trade for the children (I love that man). Time to myself is just logistics, however, because I have a deeper motive. My “cause,” my inspiration, my muses, are blooming like fresh summer roses and I don’t want to forget a single moment.
See, I’m crying here. Even through these days of interminable sameness, there is a violent need to hold on. First, is the growing. Growing documented daily by Toby in astonished hand-to-forehead comparisons. “Everyone!” he shouted this morning outside The Snooty Pig. “I am taller than this bench!”
“You are!” I said tearfully, plopping equal parts joy and grief in my motherhood repository. The doorknob! The fire hydrant! Mommy’s bed! He checks them off like a to-do list of vertical ascent.
Charlie too is sprouting with rosy-cheeked zeal. Every day he compiles a new stream of babble into an articulate sentence. A sentence! Sometimes my expectations are so behind I almost miss it. His sparkling brown eyes flicker intensely as he repeats “Wha Poby Dooeen?” in a consecutive stream until I smack my hand to my temple and get it.
“What is Toby doing? Of course! Let’s go find out!” I take his dimpled little hand into mine and we yell “Poby! Poby, where are you?” until we hear Toby laughing behind the curtains.
Some afternoons I sit down during their rest with my good intentions, ready to clink out another piece of my cyber memoir. Charlie opens his door and hollers “hello?” down the hall infinity times. Toby bursts from his room for a mid-nap poop. I just shrug my shoulders and sigh. There is nothing lost in a house full of life, this house, with two warm babies tucked under my arms, leaning on my chest as I stroke their beautiful heads.
God is so good to me.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I know I will miss these days. Even in my current delirium there are moments when it feels good. We loiter around the house like sleepy cats, doing what we want to do. I tickle Charlie right under his collar bone until he laughs so hard he can't breathe. Toby sits in my lap while I wash the caked dirt off of his feet with a rag. I love those things, I do. Lately, though, there is that "laying out in the sun was heavenly, but now I'm really blistered" factor stifling my pleasure.
Part of it is the constancy. My mental calendar unfolds into one long row of empty boxes marking the pilgrimage to Fall. The bleak highlights: Tues. Shopping at CostCo! Mon.-Thurs. Swimming Lessons! Fri. Trash Day! I see myself bumbling along, leap frogging from one mediocre affair to the next and hoping I don't drown in my own guilty ungratefulness.
The kids are just always there. Toby stalks me through the house performing interrogation torture. "How big was I when you were a baby?" "Where will we move when we grow taller than our house?" "When is my room going to catch on fire?" I answer him with logic until I realize that it is not a child I'm speaking to, but a three-foot expert on all things absurd.
"You were not born when I was a baby," I say.
"Yes I wa-as!" He says.
"If you already know, then why are you asking?"
"You are not being nice, mommy!"
Maybe I could handle the perpetual debate if Charlie wasn't in my face slapping the keyboard and honking my nose.
I feel like I'm going crazy.
"I feel like I'm going crazy!" I go ahead and yell to two people with sudden-onset indifference.
Several summers from now I'll be whisking my boys off to sleepovers and soccer games, choking on a stream of relentless action. I'll wonder when I ever had time with them. Toby will clam up like a secret agent protecting his thoughts with the conviction of Jason Bourne. Charlie will only crawl in my lap to steal the remote. When that day comes I will feel sad and nostalgic and recall only the best parts of where we are now.
But today, a little withdrawal sounds like heaven.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Take barfing for example. To this day Toby is the only toddler I have ever seen be personally delivered to his parents in the middle of church service by a gagging, vomit-covered child-care volunteer. If there were a barf Olympics I would enter Toby and tearfully cheer from the bleachers as he projectiled further than anyone in history. "That's my boy!" I would say and then I would reminisce about long nights spent on the couch holding towels under his chin and how worthwhile it was now that he was on the podium singing our National Anthem.
Last week we were outside for all of thirty minutes, wherein the absolute first mosquito hatchlings of summer congregated on Toby's shins for a celebration feast. It wasn't like I didn't know to hose the boys off in deet before subjecting them to the insect Hades of our backyard, but I hadn't checked my entomological calendar for the precise mosquito life cycle. One moment I'm dreamily sipping my Chai latte in Spring's sheltering arms, the next I'm digging through our medicine cabinet for the *AfterBite* cream and *Benadryl* because Toby's legs are swelling to the size of Redwood trunks.
I know what you are thinking. Lots of kids are allergic to insect bites and blah blah blah, but I kid you not, none of them (except B.A.D.) ever produced such hideous, colossal boils as what sprouted from my son's innocent flesh. Boils with eco-systems and lunar phases and fast food franchises. Part of me was a little excited to share this anomaly via Internet photo, and for that I apologize. In my defense, if your own child were capable of a grotesque reaction you would find the urge to shock your FB friends irresistible too.
Today I added "bloody noses" to my long list of *WebMD* queries. While my adoration and gratefulness for *WebMD* runs deeper than most consider prudent, there are times when I cannot convey the appropriate severity. "Bloody noses" are what happen when your brother throws a wooden train across the room, or when you go skiing in Breckenridge, or when you pick. Searching "Sudden failure of entire vascular regions while sitting quietly in Children's Worship" did not produce any valuable results.
What can you do? After four years of research I have learned there is usually nothing to worry about, and that just about anything is a symptom of cancer.
Anything except emetephobia. That is just a perk of mothering two uniquely gifted individuals.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Just when you accepted either a) your chromosomal superiority or b) your (look out...) remarkable parenting skills, your second child springs from the womb yelling "no" and laughing while you try to snuggle his limp-bodied, kicking self into some semblance of the Willow Tree carving on the dresser.
"Oh, I'm sorry," you tell him, "I guess you didn't know that breaking all the glass votive holders was dangerous. That yelling 'Cookie!' the entire time we ate out (though you were, in fact, holding a cookie) was irritating. That shrieking 'Down! Down!' as I carried you from preschool every day was embarrassing. It should look like this: you kneeling beside my heart-shaped, featureless face while I tenderly stroke your wooden cheek. Yes, that's it! Isn't that what you meant to do?"
Then your second child locks eyes with you and smiles very dimply and peachy while reaching one toe into the street just a touch, just a little weensy bit. "Charlie!" you say, "No sir! Go to the naughty spot!" You wave your arms and squinch your eyebrows so the neighbors see you are not permissive or negligent or incompetent, though you yourself aren't really sure.
You scrutinize your care, your attentiveness, your goodness while he sits in time-out. You look at his tiny bean-of-a-self enduring this formality with the remorse of an artichoke. What am I doing wrong?
He grabs his wiggly feet and sings, "He ha da Whole worl in His han!" and "biddy biddy beebees, in his han!" until you realize the answer is nothing. What is flawed is the statue itself, because as moving as it seems, it isn't as delightful, as marvelous, as perfect as this stubborn, extraordinary soul.
God don't let me change him!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
"Is it a paper cut?" I ask because I forgot my go-go-gadget magnifier for microbooboo locating. "Mo-o-o-omm-y-y" he opens his mouth into such a wide cry that his lips barely reconnect for the m's. "I think your gonna make it buddy," I say. Greg returns to his screwdriverish super-project while I rinse Toby's finger in the kitchen sink.
Our underconcern makes him anxious-- as if some day he will puncture an artery or catch on fire and his parents might keep on weed-eating or browning turkey meat while he bleeds to death on the kitchen tile.
This is the part of four that baffles me. At two, I knew I could scoop him up and hold him for just a skinned knee. It felt so right reassuring him, letting him cry it out however long he wanted. Now I waffle between coddling and indifference, searching for a proper balance that won't land him in therapy twenty years from now.
Even more perplexing is his simultaneous need for manhood. One minute he wants gauze wrapped around an indiscernible wound, and the next he is following his dad up the ladder with a real screwdriver in his fist. I furiously dig through his plastic tool set for a safer toy replica wondering who to blame for his inconsistency, him or me?!
What I want is to have him both ways. I want him to be tough, independent, capable and I also want him to need me. I let him go with a wary unclenching of hands, then give him whiplash yanking his little self right back. Independence requires something of both of us that still feels foreign. I know I should lead and encourage him, but that requires a hint of risk, of danger that I'm too afraid to allow. The nurturing part is so much easier.
I think this will be my battle always. Like in the book "Love You Forever" when the old mother crawls through her grown son's apartment window and rocks him while he sleeps. Everything about that page is disturbing and muddled. You want to yell through the watercolor "Cut the cord, lady!" But when you sit on the bed next to a pair of chubby, bare feet you can't very well cast blame. It'll take everything you have to keep your own feet from clambering up behind her.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
"I mean it seems like a good idea, you know?" Greg says, but I don't know, because I have no clue what the idea was.
"Tell me what we are talking about again?" I say.
"Envelopes." He possibly said over Charlie who is pointing at the pantry yelling for I don't know what.
Toby stands next to his chair holding his pants and underwear. "Can you come wipe me?" he asks. Greg groans and follows him to the bathroom. I hurry to make Charlie some oatmeal.
And that is that. We regress to yelling our schedule essentials from one side of the house to the other.
"I have a paper due this weekend," he says.
"I have a meeting Sunday afternoon." I reply.
"I'm playing golf tomorrow. I won't be home until 7:00."
"I want to make an appearance at Jamie's make-up party."
This is the new us, the frazzled, noisy us, negotiating our independence like day traders. He is only in another room, but it feels further. I miss talking to him. I wonder if we'll ever stop bothering at all.
Later we load up the kids for a Sonic run. I look at Greg next to me in the car. He has a fresh hair cut. I like it. His face is tan from the golf course, making his green eyes more vivid. He boyishly taps the steering wheel to the Newsboys song from the radio. Once upon a time neither of us listened to music like this. It feels good watching him enjoy it, choosing to enjoy it, for the boys sake. He has substance. That is always what I liked about him.
I remember sipping a cherry limeade after school one afternoon, concealing my private obsession with the phone from my friends. Maybe Greg would call. Maybe he would invite me to a movie or to Harrigan's for cheese rolls. The very thought gave my life meaning. It was scary how much he meant to me. When I was with him, I called self-control from every continent of my soul to keep my hands from trembling.
What is so different now? It's been fifteen years since I met him at a basketball game somewhere in Oklahoma City. Fifteen years since my heart quit beating for mere life. Even though the boys are fighting behind us, even though our car smells like Sonic, even though we can't use actual words, when he turns to me and winks, I know why I bother trying. I know exactly why I bother.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
We have covered more miles than lie between Houston and New York City.
We have talked over 500 hours.
We have resolved the following issues: the best school for Jerri's girls to attend, the name of my second son, what we want to be when we grow up (Jerri=esthetician, Andi=writer), how to hide vegetables in non-yucky food, a color for my living room walls, what to buy our husbands for Christmas, how long one can run while pregnant (20 weeks until your back gives out!), our hormone imbalances, the best discipline techniques at every age level (up to ten anyway...), and of course our God, how He is the center, the everything, even when we just don't get Him at all.
While I was pregnant with my second son Jerri ran slower with me until I couldn't run anymore. Then Jerri walked with me until I couldn't walk either. Then Jerri swam with my pouting, super-sized self until I almost gave birth while we ate lunch one afternoon.
We have laughed and run, wept and run, been silent and run, prayed and run. We have prayed so hard that we stopped running, laid hands on each other and cried.
This is why I love running. On the quiet, dark road I am not alone. I have the sweetness of other feet thumping beside me, around every bend, over every hill. One pair wears worn Asics with double-knotted laces. The other pair I can't see, but He is always in front showing us where to go.
- Never wear headphones on the road. (You cannot hear cars.)
- Run against traffic. (We have dodged into the ditch many times when a driver didn't see us.)
- Be blinky. (We use little finger lights they sell at Halloween. They strobe!!)
- Wear bright clothes. (We have reflective belts and arm bands. If you don't feel like a dork, you are not visible enough.)
- Carry a phone.
- Never run alone.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I sputtered along as Emily's half-hearted, second-rate running partner though our schedules were different now. Emily needed to run in the afternoon, the worst time of day for a baby. I couldn't keep up while pushing the baby jogger, and I refused to dump a cranky infant on my husband the minute he walked through the door. Emily was my friend and it hurt to see the close of our era. We met to run here and there, but in the end, I casually drifted away.
For awhile I didn't do much but gawk at my baby. I couldn't be with him enough. I had no idea he would take over my heart, no my very being, with such ferocity. If I planned to do anything for myself it would not be at his expense. I hated to give up running, but in comparison, I really didn't care.
Was there someone else as devoted to her babies as I was? Someone willing to run at odd times on low-energy, maybe even wearing mashed bananas on her shorts? To stick with it, I needed a different breed of woman. Someone whose legs only took her as far as two tiny arms could reach.
I needed another Running Mama.
I mentioned my hope to a few friends at church, and through a friend of a friend, I met my running soul-mate. When I found her, heaven itself burst into song and unfurled the rainbow of joy over my snot-crusted shoulders. Her name was Jerri, disciplined runner and mother of two.
I said "Can you be up by 6:00?"
She said "How about 5:15?"
I said, "I will cancel last minute if my baby is sick."
She said, "Me too. Times two."
I said, "Do you run fast?"
She said, "Let's just stay together."
Cue tears of jubilation.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Emily was greasing up the wheel bearings on the baby jogger a few days before my six week Dr. visit. Her optimism was flattering. I don't know how she saw any hope at all, since I had been through six weeks of extreme sleep deprivation, raging mastitis, and accidental undernourishment (who had time to eat?). Miraculously, my Dr. sent me home with a clean bill of health, which seemed a little sadistic since I looked like a corpse compared to my former self. But apparently, actually being alive is not a prerequisite for caring for your newborn, or in Emily's case, resuming an exercise regimen.
First hurdle: the baby jogger. When I put Toby's eight-pound self in the seat, the shoulder harness hit him in the forehead. Uggh, maybe in a few months... I left him with Greg knowing this completely unnecessary stint away from home would cost my husband his Shalom for the next thirty minutes.
When Emily and I set out, my sports bra felt like a vice holding two leaky water balloons (which was reeeeeally ooky). "You can make it a mile," said Satan, skipping off unencumbered. It was really hard. Really, really hard. I panted and wheezed and took it one mailbox at a time. It didn't seem fair that I was starting over. I ran a half marathon the month before I got pregnant and now I was back at the beginning again.
I did make it a mile, but it was different. It took more out of me than my nursing and overtired self had to give. Something had changed in me -- something deeper than my lack of fitness. At home, I stood over my baby boy, swaddled and beautiful in his Moses basket.
He would come first.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I liked the idea of shattering the plump, lumbering stereotype of pregnancy in lieu of svelte athleticism, but I didn't have it in me. Running was so hard now, with the extra weight and nausea, and I sort of wanted to enjoy the break. Every day Emily would come over to yank me off the couch, and every day I would half-heartedly succumb.
In November she finally gave up. She bought a bright red jogging stroller for my baby shower and presented it with obvious hope. I still love that girl.
Christmas passed quickly for everyone but me. The hands of the clock seemed locked in place, though I watched them with fierce devotion. I read What to Expect, The Girlfriend's Guide, and Pregnancy Week-By-Week until they were floppy and redundant. I surfed BabyCenter message boards and envied the women posting newborn pictures and typing out lengthy birth stories with obscene attention to detail.
The slowest increment of time known to humanity is the final week of pregnancy. While you are living it, tortoises seem to undergo a full life cycle. It is tortuously boring, turning you into a bloated whiner, compulsively devoted to your own well-being.
And then one day it's over. Just like that.
Well, sort of...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Emily rationalized our partnership as mutually beneficial. She was fast, but couldn't run far. I was slow, but used to long distances. It was running stasis, equal and opposite parts balancing each other into harmony. Lovely.
The harmony sounded like a wheezing, barfing, housecat being drug behind a cheetah. Emily was so darned competitive. No matter how fast I ran, her pace was two notches faster. I think If I ran at the speed of light, Emily would have projected herself into the future and beat me anyway.
I finally gave up trying to stay with her and kept a couple steps back. As long as I wasn't beside her, she would sink into a non-puke-inducing pace. Believe it or not, Emily and I became quite the pair. For almost two years we wore out running shoes on our Texas country roads. We entered dozens of road races together (and the Hotter n' Hell Hundred cycling ride!) and in the end, we both met our original goals. Still when I think of Emily, my mind fills with sunshine and the smell of hay blowing across the hills.
There was only one thing compelling enough to quench our running bliss. It was an evening mid-May when I saw it, plain as day, and marvelled at the powerful emotions it stirred in my heart.
Through the tiny window on a little white stick were two pink lines.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Running is spiritual. It is the shadow of my relationship with God, a physical symbol for an invisible inner life. Through it I learned to be strong, to be humble, to persevere. Now it was time to surrender.
So, for three months I didn’t so much as jog across the parking lot.
Winter passed slowly. Things began to change. Greg and I moved into a new house in the country. I secured a teaching job at a school close by for the following year. I started a small group for teenage girls in our upstairs room.
One morning I looked out the window at the fresh blue skies of Spring. I grabbed my running shoes from the dark corner of my closet and started again. This time, it was no girl, pouting and selfish who flew across the countryside under the warm sun.
It was a woman.
*“While I’m In Between” taken from Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman by Britney Spears.
**Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS): The IT band connects the iliac (hip) to the tibia (at the knee). A healthy IT band can move back and forth across the femoral epicondyle with each step, pain free. When the band is overused, it tightens, becomes inflamed, and causes a painful burning on the outside of the knee or down the outside of the thigh.
If you think you have an IT band injury, stop running immediately and focus on getting it loose again. Special stretches here can show you how to properly care for the injury and prevent it from happening in the future. Also, a foam roller is miraculous for IT bands.
If you live in the metroplex, GO HERE for an evaluation and adjustment. This guy has saved the running careers of half our church.
Monday, March 16, 2009
It was a slow death. I decided to train for a marathon. A group from church was doing the Houston HP, and it seemed like the perfect diversion from my sulking self-absorption. I paid the entry fee and immediately increased my mileage.
Four and six miles morphed into eight, ten, and fifteen miles. Sometimes my runs were so long it felt like the seasons changed from the beginning to the end. I trudged forward like a soldier because it wasn’t just about running, but creating my place in our new life. It gave me value, friends, an identity.
I completed a twenty-miler, our longest pre-race distance, two weeks before that chilly afternoon in January. I stopped by my trail after work for a quick eight. The temp dropped during the day, and all I had with me was shorts. I thought about skipping to bundle up with a latte, but it mattered too much to me. I changed clothes and set out. My legs never got warm. When I finished, they were red and splotchy, tight, and a searing pain shot down my right thigh.
Everything rational told me to rest, but I didn’t. The next Saturday I was back on the trail with a group from church, limp-running to keep up. A dull burn in my leg heated into a raging fire until I couldn’t force another step. I sat down on my butt in the middle of the path and cried.
All the training. All the time. All the plans.
But no marathon.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
And off we went to the little town in Texas where Greg would be youth pastor of Toby's two-year-old church. A church that formerly held services in a bar.
When I crossed the threshold of our new rent house I was greeted by two dead roaches and a fog of must. We knew we were supposed to be here. We knew. But suddenly, I was scared of what we were doing. I had no friends. I had no job. I had no place that was mine to make home. I didn't want to be sad, but I couldn't stop it. I cried and I cried and I cried.
For two months.
At the end of summer, a school across the metroplex hired me to teach PE. A commute that took two minutes in Oklahoma now took forty-five. I thought about how to survive it, and my answer came in the form of a trail halfway between work and home. It was a two-mile loop that surrounded a health club frequented by many members of our church. Greg and I joined and I became the world's most grateful runner.
Every day after work I stopped at my trail and ran as many loops as light allowed. I was ashamed of how difficult our new life was for me. I thought about everything. My old friends, my family, my cute house in Edmond, now home for someone else. I thought about our life here, how hard people were on a new youth pastor, and how lonely I was.
As I ran, the green summer turned into frigid fall and everything around my trail died.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
She informed me that their usual distance was ten miles, but she was willing to cut it in half if I wanted. I said, "Thank you," though I should have said "please bring a defibrillator and oxygen tank in your fanny pack because I am grossly overstating my actual abilities to impress and befriend you." We made plans and I was a little nervous.
Mellisa preferred running at dawn over dusk. I drug myself out of bed and we set out on the dark, quiet streets of Edmond. The first day I really thought I might die. I don't know how I even made it since I still hadn't actually run three miles before without a walking break let alone five. I knew I could not blow the chance to be her friend. Though I was a much slower running partner than her husband, she never complained. We talked about work, and marriage, and her kids. We talked and talked and one day I came home from our run and I didn't feel like puking.
Some friends of Greg's in Texas invited us out for the weekend. Greg was going to play golf and I decided to run my very first 10K at the Ft. Worth Cowtown. A group from a small country church was running their first marathon the same day. One of them was Toby Slough, the church's pastor. Since Toby was a good friend of Greg's we stayed to cheer him across the finish line.
Maybe it was prophetic, maybe it was just a pointed coincidence to look back on later when times got lonely. We watched the men as they came to the end, hurting, leaning on each other, and crying tears of joy. I was inspired, not only to keep running, but to find that same kind of belonging. Only God knew that within months our lives would change and we would be among them, following Toby down a different kind of road, a longer, harder, more beautiful road than I had ever run before.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
While I drug myself through the neighborhood in shame, Courtney opted to train on the treadmill. She was with me at the first 5k, but at that time neither of us really knew split from fartlek, so I wasn’t aware she had stinking lungs like Lance Armstrong.
At our second race, I expected to steamroll passed her because the treadmill is a lousy substitute for pavement. I thought. About two seconds after the gun fired she was gone. I didn’t see her again until the finish line whence she was sucking on an orange slice and cheering for me. Evil freak of nature…
Over the course of months I worked very hard to catch her. I tried everything to make me better. It didn’t. Instead, I learned two valuable running lessons.
The first was not comparing. Nothing killed my drive more than feeling like I would never catch Courtney. It wasn’t fair. I worked just as hard. No harder. How long could she blaze past me? Finally, one day I got my answer. It was “forever.” The truth is that some people really are born to run. Sometimes to be happy yourself, you have to just let them go.
The second lesson was time. I was nearing college graduation and there wasn’t much of it left after classes, homework, and my job. Before, I sort of thought a person could toss in a few miles here and there and still get better. After months of this, I wondered what would happen if I formally regimented myself to the cause. I tried all methods: training journals, new workout gear, music, lake runs. Ugghhh. Something was still missing. Something more compelling than my own strong will.
It wasn’t until after collecting my diploma and landing a teaching job nearby that I got my first running windfall. She was cute, quiet, and disciplined.
And she changed my life.
Friday, March 6, 2009
It was precisely .5 miles around my block according to my odometer. I figured I would circle three or four times. All I needed was will power, yeah? Set my mind to it! I waved to the old man across the street and kicked up my heels.
I passed only two mailboxes when suddenly the only sound in the whole neighborhood was my abnormally loud breathing. I tried to control it by puffing out my cheeks with each exhale, but it only made my brain feel hot and whooshy like every blood cell in there was trying to escape. In fact, my whole body pounded like it might explode. This doesn’t seem right, I thought because I had seen tons of people run and not once did any of them spontaneously combust.
As I rounded the first corner, I stopped to walk which really hurt my pride and snuffed my enthusiasm for the whole idea. It took the entire half block before I could inhale without sounding like an asthmatic Darth Vader.
I jogged again before I passed the old man across the street. I wanted him to think I ran the whole way, because I am that shallow. I ended up going four times around in the same pattern. Run my street, walk to the opposite street. I hope he was impressed.
When I finally found myself back in my own driveway I was completely spent. No one told me running felt like strapping your lungs in a vice and dragging eight bowling balls behind you. How did people do this? And why????
Later, after a shower and a sandwich I noticed something. I felt sore and tired, but also… great. It was like happy-relaxed-exerted-great.
Maybe I could try again.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Strangely, I fell in love with the whole race atmosphere. Races are easy to love. There are fresh, sporty people, free bagels, and this happy energy you can't explain. I signed up for another one right away.
ONE YEAR LATER I finally ran an entire 5k without walking. ONE YEAR. That has to be the slowest any runner has ever progressed. There are not any books on How To Run Your First 5k Within 12 Months, but why are we in such a hurry? If I were to write a running book I would call it How To Love Running and it would be a slow-paced, sweet book about relationships, silence, and God.
The next few posts are dedicated to my friends, who at various stages, are beginning their running journeys. But it is also for anyone who struggles. Running, just like life, is about doing what you think you can't. Maybe it will inspire you to run, but I hope it inspires you to persevere.
Jamie, Jen, Jessica, Michele, Tara, and of course, my Jerri. This is our story.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Saturday was the Cowtown Marathon, Ft. Worth's biggest running event each year. My running partner, Jerri, and I planned to run the half. Despite the ugly t-shirt with a huge flaming bull, the race is supremo. It is big enough to offer awesome perks (hand sanitizer at the Port-O-Pottys!), but small enough to cross the starting line before you need Geritol.
Jerri and I are race experts. We leave home with the EXACT amount of time needed to stop at Starbucks (Grande Mocha Latte TO GO!), park in a parking garage, pee, and check in our bag of junk for after the race. This has to be timed perfectly or you end up freezing your tushy off waiting for the gun, or worse yet, weaving through baby strollers to find your pace group.
The only snafu turned out to be our salvation. A big clog of runners was trying to work their way behind the starting line. Guards had gated off the area on both sides so you had to walk around to find your pace group. The crowd was so agitated that a merciful officer snuck a little opening in the partition to let a bunch of us through. GLORY!!!!!!
I have NEVER started at the very front of a race, but Saturday, we had no choice. There was no time to find our marker. We scooted over to the side and tried to look fast next to the line of very tall Kenyans.
We felt awful during the race. Everyone was passing us. The wind was blowing 20-30 miles an hour so it was impossible to feel comfortable. I was really grouchy because I realllllly wanted to break two hours this year and the Cowtown is already too hilly for a PR even on a windless day.
We barely even talked. We put our heads down and trucked along, stopping only briefly for a cup of Powerade now and then. And...
Just as I wanted to stop and crawl the rest of the way, we caught sight of the finish line. The clock read 1:58:47. Ya'll I looked at Jerri with pure adrenaline in my eyes and we SPRINTED the last tenth of a mile. There was no way we could be that close without closing the deal.
Final time: 1:59:43. Boooyah!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Thankfully, I knew just what to do. "Charlie! No sir!" I yelled and I mean YELLED with my mean frowny eyes digging right into his hard little head. Hahaha, that got Toby in line every time. I heard whimpering...
from Toby (wha?). Charlie, however, looked at me and laughed before running away with giddy excitement.
Over the past weeks I have spanked him. (Hilarious!) Put him in time out. (Thanks, I felt like a rest!) Took away toys. (I was done anyway!) Put him in his room. (I love it in there!) Yelled some more--louder, finger pointy-er, until the veins in my temples exploded and my head spun off into outer space. Did he wince? No! He appeared jubilant, no PROUD, of his powerful little self!
I overheard his preschool teachers talking about the "naughty spot." The naughty spot, hmmm, worth a try. Later, I caught him throwing an expectant peek over his shoulder as he casually unplugged the DVD player during Toby's movie.
"Charlie, do you need to go to the naughty spot?" I asked. And...
His lower lip trembled. TREMBLED! He let go of the plug, hung his head, and waddled away. I have never felt such joy making a child cry in shame. Booyah!!!!
Today, I am going to ignore his charming dimples (okay, one little cheek squeeze). I am going to ignore his father (the pastor!) who insists "naughty spot" sounds a little dirty. Today victory is mine!!!! Mwahahaha!*
*Feel free to leave ideas for tomorrow...
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Some things just won't fit in the mini-van. No one has answers. When fear and confusion spew from the town spicket, the church flips to it's default setting of "defense attorney," puking out arguments for God's infallibility. "Some important blessing will come out of this!" "All things work for good in those who fear Him!" "He has a plan!" "His ways are not our ways!" I hate the sound of it, us defending God as if he needs a publicist to clean up after Him. Yet here I am standing in my driveway fumbling through stock answers with terrified, doubtful mommies while we run our fingers through downy heads of precious, irreplaceable hair.
Yesterday I was thinking. (It happens.) We are stuck in the reality of peanut butter sandwiches, and cat litter, and coffee shops-- things requiring no faith at all to believe in. Now suddenly we have to answer, void of reason, void of warm-tingles, void of evidence: Do we believe God?
The bitter pill to swallow is that God's fallibility is not on trial. Only our faith is.
How will you answer?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I hate it when I get like this. When I have so many things to do, so many unrelated, taskly things, that I stumble around completely zombified, unable to finish even one of them.
Why do I need peanut butter? When I press my fingers to my temples I imagine my brain's secretary fumbling for the file amid a cluttered, coffee-smelling office. You are hideously inept I say as she stares back guiltily.
We don't have time to fight because Toby's shoes were mysteriously summoned to Jesus, again. I send Greg outside to dig in the outdoor trash bin. “We should just buy new," he mumbles.
"Sometimes it’s the principle!" I yell because more than anything I want to know how shoes can vanish inexplicably.
I step over Charlie who is now driving a train on the bedroom floor. "Charlie? Where are Toby's shoes?" I ask hopefully when I notice poop falling out the back of his diaper. For the love!!!
I whisk him to the bathroom for a strip and rinse, trying to decide exactly why I'm gagging. Is it his poop-smeared back or the rope of green snot sliding down his upper lip? I sacrifice a whole bar of soap to the cause as I scrub the offending orifices. Now bleaching the bath-tub is following peanut butter through my frontal lobe like a tourist asking for directions. Except that peanut butter answers in confused French and it's obvious that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON IN THERE!
Are there mothers somewhere darning fluffy-toed socks while their good-smelling offspring sort the recycling and eat beets? Children in some dry, remote corner of Arizona who never have sinusitis or crusty eye goo? How did I end up here, raising shoeless, allergy-ridden vegetable-haters, searching for poo in my carpet?
God why is this ridiculous exercise in anarchy part of it all? Why am I LOSING MY MIND?
I finally get them to bed and it is quiet. Instead of reading, or watching Grey's Anatomy, here I am clinking out the whole dirty mess of it for posterity. God, is it this? This now, sitting down to capture the wild confusion of our day? I roll each moment in my palm like a precious stone and it doesn’t seem exasperating anymore. It reminds me of how much I love this life, these children of mine, for whom I give all of my sanity. For whom it is an honor.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Today was unseasonably warm so I marched Toby and Charlie outside with a rather unfriendly command to ENJOY THE FRESH AIR. (Fresh air that my germophobic self won't completely trust since the neighborhood is trading gastroenteritis like cups of sugar.) I thought the sunny pardon from our bleak indoor netherworld would motivate self-entertainment so I could veg out under the sun. It was quiet for all of one nanosecond before Toby became Socrates, pondering life's mysteries while flinging lumps of potting soil into the grass with a plastic shovel.
"Why are the Wonder Pets not too tough?" he asked.
"Toby, let's have five minutes of no talking starting right... now."
"Well, how do you grow small like a baby?"
"You don't. Everyone is growing bigger."
"But what about babies. How do you grow into a baby?"
"You don't grow into a baby, babies grow into big people."
His philosophizing was not slowed by Charlie who stomped unhappily around the driveway because his feet wouldn't reach the trike pedals.
There are days when Toby could contemplate the theme songs of the entire Nickelodeon network and I would find it endearing. Charlie could sulk and pout while spewing caveman expletives at over-sized riding toys everywhere! and I would stroke his head gently and smile.
But not today. It is winter and my sanity dangles from a skinny, burning thread. The sun shines unexpectedly in the blue January skies and I want to enjoy it. I need to.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I am so proud of how you've grown. But when you stand in your big four-year-old bones and words burst from your mouth like bubbling candy, I just can't believe it. I still see the itty-bitty you that cried if I walked in the bathroom to pee.
Four years of you. The best four years of my life. Happy Birthday, little man.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Toby was about six months old. We were in our big house, the one we custom built back when I was working. I was holding his hands and "walking" him on a clean, shiny floor. I was tan. I had cutely-styled hair. The couch in the background was new and still holding its shape. Greg was working the camera, making baby talk to get Toby to smile at him. It was insanely perfect.
The worst part was seeing my pajamas. The light blue ones I still wear all the time, because they are new. On the video they were not light blue, they were dark blue. Their spaghetti straps rested lightly on the beautiful shoulders of a fresh young mother, still glowing with promise. I barely recognized her.
I did the mental math. Greg bought me those pajamas on my first Mother's Day four years ago?? Has it been that long?? I looked around for something to prove it possible. Our couch, now disfigured from years as an indoor jungle gym slumped in the middle of the floor like a grumpy bag of potatoes. Our down-sized house looked not-so-fabulous, functionally surrounding a living room scattered with toys.
And me. No longer sparkling with fresh dew, but just... tired.
I reflected a moment, realizing that no price is too high for the two bundles of joy Greg and I have the honor of raising.
Not really. I hid the tapes and ran to the phone to make a hair appointment.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
a) My last post was one WEEK ago.
b) I am currently reading Twilight and it is literature *crack*.
c) My dear husband went to a movie and I am NOT going to spend my golden alone time vacuuming.
Insert fingers into ears. Squeeze eyes closed. Hum.